Izbas, Le Corbusier, and Grain Elevators

A comment about Russian izbas–a sort of country cabin–from commenter AJP Crown on Language Hat has led me on an interesting visual digression into grain elevators and Modernist Movement architect Le Corbusier. The links are listed below.

Modernism is all right, I guess, being a sort of cousin to Deco. But Le Corbusier is a bit troubling as a supporter of the now discredited urban sprawl. He also originated the concept of slablike high-rises like Cabrini Green. These public housing projects used to litter Chicago’s south side and are in the process of being demolished.  Any visitor to Chicago who took a drive south on the Dan Ryan Expressway would always comment on the old smoke stains rising from the windows of one huge dilapidated building after another.

Still, some of Le Corbusier’s other projects are visually interesting.  These would be great buildings to have somewhere in the neighborhood as a destination for walks.  I wouldn’t care to live in one, though–there’s something soulless about them.

I much prefer the 1940’s style WPA projects.  A lot of these, like the Starved Rock Lodge in Illnois built by the depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, were built by quite good craftsmen who were tickled pink just to have work.  They poured all of their skill into massive lodges with stone fireplaces and solid furniture made with quarter sawn oak and mortise and tenon joints. Walking into this type of building just gives me a comfortable feeling–maybe reminiscent of being spoiled by grandparents. It feels like the kind of place where you don’t have to wipe your feet.


High rise izba in Russia with disturbing proportions.

Russian museum izbas.

Le Corbusier

Four minute film–montage of Le Corbusier buildings.

List of links to photos of Le Corbusier architectural works.

Photographs of grain elevators

Some great photos of cylindrical grain elevators on rivers.

According to comments on this landscape architecture website, “Le Corbusier was completely fascinated by them, by their simplicity, honest use of material, and the fact that they were mostly conceived through function. In fact, according to Lisa Mahar-Keplinger in her slim volume on grain elevators (see link in post), he and along with Erich Mendelsohn and Walter Gropius had ‘no difficulty adopting it, both formally and symbolically, as a model for their international vision of architecture.'”

Typical midwestern grain elevators from a historical society here, here, and here.

A Canadian grain elevator being rescued–and appearing to move by itself in a Monty Python-esque manner across the screen.

Interiors–Photo of large granary here, 2 minute video of small granary here.

New uses for old grain elevators

Interior of grain elevator power station as museum.

Grain elevator as hotel-the Quaker Square Inn at Akron, Ohio.

“The Granary”–office space in Philadelphia here and here.

Rock-climbing gym in Bloomington (?), Illinois.

Student housing in Oslo, Norway. (photo on right by saipal)

The Silophone–a weird art/sound project in Montreal (click “about Silophone” circular target logo then click “concept”):

Silophone makes use of the incredible acoustics of Silo #5 by introducing sounds, collected from around the world using various communication technologies, into a physical space to create an instrument which blurs the boundaries between music, architecture and net art. Sounds arrive inside Silo #5 by telephone or internet. They are then broadcast into the vast concrete grain storage chambers inside the Silo. They are transformed, reverberated, and coloured by the remarkable acoustics of the structure, yielding a stunningly beautiful echo. This sound is captured by microphones and rebroadcast back to its sender, to other listeners and to a sound installation outside the building.

Condos from grain elevators at Lake Calhoun–Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Exterior sketch from architect here (scroll down to last page of photos at end of article); interior here (scroll down).

Taino: a dead language rises from the ashes

Today is the day when many bloggers write posts commemorating Columbus Day.  Even more write pieces celebrating the Native American contribution to the New World.   I was leaving my “Columbus had a Norwegian Map” slogan on a comment thread as my own ethnic Scandinavian take on the holiday when I came across a comment about the first edition of a Taino dictionary.


According to the message: “Taínos come from the Guaraní tribes from South America which migrated to the Caribbean islands.” Looking further, wikipedia informs us that Taino is one of the dead languages of the maritime branch of northern Maipurean family of South American languages and includes the dialects Baicawa in Hispaniola (now Haiti), Cayaba in Hispanola and the Keyes, Cubaba in Cuba and Hispanola, Eyeri in Boriquen (now Puerto Rico), and Lucayo in the Bahamas.

So Taino is a dead language–and now it has a dictionary?  Looking further, the dictionary seems to be the project of Puerto Ricans who have preserved some of their language in the mountainous regions of their country.  Why am I not surprised.

Last week I read somewhere that you don’t really know a language until you write a dictionary of it. How do you write a dictionary, I thought? That might be interesting to try. Then I forgot all about it until this week when some language buffs were buzzing about whether the ideal Chinese dictionary could be compiled with a donation of a million dollars from Bill Gates, or if it would take $50 million. So much for my hypothetical dictionary, I thought.

But take a look at these Tainos.  They don’t know a dictionary takes a million dollars and a bunch of impossible credentials.   They don’t even know their language is dead.  They just went ahead and did it. I kind of like these Taino folks, whoever they are.

Oh, and they have dance music.


Ramadan is over, Eid is over, time to retire the Kul ahm intum bxeer widget.

And to replace it?  What could be more appropriate than Insha’Allah? The phrase can function as a polite refusal, a pious sort of Murphy’s law, or just a reminder for stressed out types that everything is NOT under their control.


In the words of one American who lived in Guinea, the word Inshallah was tied up with ritual greetings and difficulties in transportation that made American-style punctuality impossible.

Now, I’ve learned to be very patient. I’ve also become more tolerant. I realize that I don’t have control over certain things, and that sometimes I must accept my fate and not get upset about unexpected events and problems. Also, instead of letting misunderstandings complicate a situation, I take the extra effort to talk about it until all the confusion is cleared up.

Good advice anywhere.

[Art calligraphy by Salma Arastu.]

Installation instructions for Western Data Portable Hard Drive 320 GB

Note: the following is the text of the instructions for installing the Western Data My Passport Elite 320 GB external drive. The instructions come on the disk, however the disk is preformatted in a format that restricts file size and is more appropriate to a MAC than Windows. The manufacturer recommends reformatting the drive before using with Windows.  Reformatting will destroy any files on the drive, so it’s a good idea to backup everything and save the instructions somewhere–like maybe on a blog like this one:


Drive Format
This WD device is preformatted as a single FAT32 partition for compatibility with all
updated Windows and Macintosh operating systems. The FAT32 file system has a
maximum individual file size limit of 4 GB.
To create partitions larger than 32 GB in FAT32 when reformatting the drive,
download the External USB/FireWire FAT32 Formatting Utility from
Windows 2000 and XP users can overcome file size limitations by reformatting the
drive to NTFS using the Disk Management utility. See answer ID 1287 at
support.wdc.com and article IDs 314463 and 184006 at support.microsoft.com for
further details.
Important: Reformatting the drive erases all its contents. If you have already saved
files on the drive, be sure to back them up before reformatting.

Reformatting the Drive
1. Go to support.wdc.com.
2. See Knowledge Base Answer ID 207 for formatting instructions.
After formatting, go to Downloads, find your product, download the My Passport
utility, and follow instructions as prompted.


This product ships with utility drivers and software which are preloaded on the device.
To install the software, select from the list displayed on the autorun menu and follow
the instructions as prompted.
• WD Sync™ is a synchronization and encryption software that enables the
synchronization of your data between different computers using My Passport. It
also protects your data on My Passport with 128-bit encryption. (Windows only)
• WD Anywhere Backup™ is an intuitive and robust backup and recovery
application that provides around-the-clock data protection. It features automatic
backup to multiple destinations and synchronization of working files to keep them
• Copy Application Software allows you back up the software included in
My Passport.


Connecting the Device
1. Turn on your computer.
2. Connect the USB cable as shown.
3. Drive utilities are installed automatically. If a security alert is displayed during this
installation, click Accept or Continue.
4. When finished, a menu displays. To install software, double-click your choice on
the menu; otherwise, click Quit to begin using the drive.
Note: If autorun is disabled on your computer, you must install the utilities and
software manually. Double-click My Computer, the My Passport drive icon, the
WD_Windows_Tools folder, and Setup.exe.



  • Under Windows XP, when the dialogue “Click on New Partition or New Volume” came up, only the “new partition” option was offered. Continuing to click though the dialogue gave the same results as in the instructions, and formatted the drive as a new volume without partitions.
  • When the above “Click on New Partition or New Volume” message yielded  only the new partiion option I attempted to format it in my Windows Vista system. However the drive had already been zeroed and the new drivers were not on it anymore.  The Vista system would not recognize the new drive.
  • For backup and restore of drivers and files of new disk on Windows XP: Start>all programs>accessories>system tools>backup (restore is done from Backup)
  • After the backed up drivers were restored, the new portable drive was put back in the Vista system and it autoconfigured the drivers from the new disk with no problem.  In fact for both the Vista and XP systems, autorun worked fine.  Oops, I spoke too soon. Vista doesn’t give me that little icon to “remove the device safely’.  Something is definitely wrong. Time to check the FAC over at Western Data.

Okay this started working for unknown reasons and automatically installed the software.

UPDATE: But how much software is real software and how much is a demo?

From a review:

A generous five-year warranty is included with the product, as is a good wad of software including WDSync (a folder/e-mail/bookmarks synchronisation tool); WD Anywhere Backup (based on Memeo technology); a diagnostic tool; and a Drive Manager Status tool, which reports capacity and temperature from your system tray. There’s a great thicket of unneeded software as well, including a MioNet trial (allowing remote access to your computer’s files/desktop/webcam), Google’s Picasa, Desktop search and Toolbar, and Adobe Reader. Mac users are less endowed with just WDSync and WD Anywhere Backup, but we consider this a positive.

So the Mionet program is a demo. “WD Anywhere Backup” program asks for a product key which is on a sticker at the bottom of the white “My Passport Elite” multilingual  Warranty Information booklet.  Backing up the recommended files to my VISTA system took about a half hour per 5 GB.  But now I am trying to do the same backup on my XP system–the thing is supposed to “Sync” between computers and devices, right?–and it tells me I have 7 days left of the trial period and if I want it on multiple computers I have to buy it for thirty dollars. The product key can only be used on one computer. The back of the package says the features include “backup software” and “sync & encryption software (Windows only)”. Nowhere does it say this is trial software.  The side of the package says “Automatic backup” ad “Mionet Free remote access (Windows only)”. No mention of Mionet being trial software either. [Note: Just to see what would happen, I tried the same product key on the second computer and it did appear to accept the key.]

I was unable to “remove drive safely”–it kept telling me some files were being used by WD Anywhere Backup–but where? what? — without running shutdown and restarting the system.

And now the XP system with the “trial version” of  WD Anywhere Backup is deploying annoying little popup messages from the bottom row of icons informing me of various advanteages of the product. I’m starting to think of disadvantages on my own.

Contemplating the six days of Shawwal following Ramadan

“Are you ready to become a Muslim now”, my friend’s husband asked me. I laughed. His wife and I had just returned from the mosque where I had listened to a talk about the days following Eid.  After prayers, my friend had showed me how to “make wudu”, the ritual washing before prayers.

Some thoughts from the talk:

  • Some fast for six days during the month of Shawwal following the month of Ramadan.
  • Fasting should not happen during Eid, but there should be a rest between the Ramadan and any new fast.
  • Scholars recommend spreading the six fast days out throughout the month, but some do it all at once to get it over with.
  • Excessive worrying about whether one has been generous enough is a sign that one may be going to Jenna.
  • Story about The Prophet: when he went away from his companions for a while then came back, he told them he had asked Allah that they be permitted to enter heaven and Allah granted that ⅓ would be permitted in Jenna. The Prophet then went back and prayed again and was granted an additional ⅓. Praying a third time the Prophet was granted by Allah that all of the ummah would be granted entrance into Jenna.
  • There are several Zikats (charity gifts?) during Ramadan, but an obligatory one is the one at the end of Ramadan for 2% (or was it 2½ %?) of the money that has been saved during the year.
  • The salat al-layl is a prayer for waking up at night.  You do two rakans or more, in groups of two. If you are not waking up for this prayer it is because you are not living a good enough life.  Try to live a better life and you will be waking up for this.

How to make wudu:

Say, “bismillah, al-rahman al-raheem” (In the name of Allah, the merciful the compassionate). Under running water: Wash right hand then left hand three times.  With right hand rinse mouth with water and wipe front upper gum with forefinger three times. Brush water into nostrils with right hand, brush water downward away from nose three times with left hand. Wipe face with water in a circular motion with right hand three times.   With both hands wet, wipe hair backwards, then rinse hands and wipe hair from underneath. Wash the ears, thumbs behind ears and forefinger in ear three times. Wash arms to the elbow. Wash feet going between each toe. Each time you wash something with a hand, rinse the hand off afterwards. Say “I testify there is no god but Allah” in Arabic. You can dry off if you want, but some like the water.  I can imagine how refreshing this must feel in a 105-degree desert heat.

The six fasting days of Shawwal are supposed to be a highly spiritual time.  So what do I make of it? Why fast? Why wash? I know Islam means submission to Allah, but I like to know why. And you can argue with Allah?–at least if you’re a prophet…And unlike the tithe or the widow’s mite, the proper zikat donation is based on extra money–those living hand to mouth will not be expected to donate. The beginning of Ramadan to me a very special time that I look forward to. The Eid feast is a great excuse to contact people you haven’t seen in a while.  But Shawwal?  I just can’t characterize it.

Note: the calligraphy graphic says “Bismillah al-rahman al-rahheem” (in the name of Allah the merciful the compassionate).

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Stave churches in Thailand or Thai temples in Norway?

On a recent thread over at Language Hat, the usual off topic discussion somehow digressed to the subject of stave churches.  After I pointed out the similarity between Norwegian stave churches and Thai temples, I received the following in an Email from someone who identified himself as a Norwegian architect.

The whole thing started out some twenty years ago when I was comparing vacation photos with a friend who had just returned from a year-long trip that included Thailand.

I’m flattered that an architect thinks this is significant. My grandmother’s family came from Norway, and I have other ancestors from Sweden and Denmark, so of course I would love to think that the Kensington stone is not a fake and that the Vikings got as far as Samarkand and Timbuktu, even if the archaeological record isn’t there.

To see just the graphic with a little better resolution, |click here|. The URL is: https://camelsnose.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/pastedgraphic.png

What’s funny about a bailout?

Finding something to smile about during the financial crisis:

This one via


With all the turmoil in the market today and the collapse of Lehman Bros and acquisition of Merrill Lynch by Bank of America, this might be some good advice.  For all of you with any money left, be aware of the next expected mergers so that you can get in on the ground floor and make some BIG bucks.

Watch for these consolidations later this year:

1. Hale Business Systems, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Fuller Brush, and W. R. Grace Co. will merge and become:  Hale, Mary, Fuller, Grace.

2. Polygram Records, Warner Bros., and Zesta Crackers join forces and become: Poly, Warner Cracker.

3. 3M will merge with Goodyear and become:  MMMGood.

4. Zippo Manufacturing, Audi Motors, Dofasco, and Dakota Mining will merge and become: ZipAudiDoDa.

5. FedEx is expected to join its competitor, UPS, and become: FedUP.

6. Fairchild Electronics and Honeywell Computers will become: Fairwell Honeychild.

7. Grey Poupon and Docker Pants are expected to become: PouponPants.

8. Knotts Berry Farm and the National Organization of Women will become: Knott NOW!

And finally, …

9. Victoria’s Secret and Smith & Wesson will merge under the new name:  TittyTittyBangBang.

UPDATE: With the passage of the bailout a few minutes ago, and an immediate 200 point drop in the stock market, here is Red State Update’s humourous take.

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