A Volkswagen microbus tent, for camping or just hanging out

71es9picvcl-_sl1339_

After briefly scrambling every available neuron my brain had to offer, this VW Van shaped tent makes perfect sense.

You wanted to go camping in your VW camper, but it wouldn’t start! Instead you take your VW sized tent, authentic to a 1965 T1, and cram on in!

71nduzzq4el-_sl1339_

I love camping in my VW Vanagon Westy.

VW Volkswagen T1 Camper Van Adult Camping Tent via Amazon

71es9picvcl-_sl1339_

After briefly scrambling every available neuron my brain had to offer, this VW Van shaped tent makes perfect sense.

You wanted to go camping in your VW camper, but it wouldn’t start! Instead you take your VW sized tent, authentic to a 1965 T1, and cram on in!

71nduzzq4el-_sl1339_

I love camping in my VW Vanagon Westy.

VW Volkswagen T1 Camper Van Adult Camping Tent via Amazon

Why Is This Citizens Brigade Taking Over Atlanta’s Bus Stops?

“People are realizing that great transit will not come from the sky,” says the co-founder of the MARTA Army.

On November 8, voters in Atlanta overwhelmingly approved the most dramatic transportation expansion the Georgia capital has seen in decades. Over the next 40 years, extra sales tax revenue will fund $2.5 billion for a major rail and bus expansion by the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, plus $300 million for improved regional pedestrian and cycling infrastructure. This big infusion stands to be transformative.

It also represents a somewhat improbable comeback for a transit-challenged region. Fast-growing Atlanta loves its cars, with some 80 percent of commuters driving solo. Voters soundly rejected a $8.5 billion sales tax proposal for regional transportation improvements back in 2012. With zero state subsidies for MARTA’s operations, and suburban residents historically unwilling to pitch in, Atlanta has long ranked at the bottom of per-capita transit spending among U.S. cities—and it shows, in years of MARTA service cuts, long wait times, and fraying infrastructure.

But Atlanta’s about-face on transit didn’t surprise Simon Berrebi. He’s a lead organizer of the MARTA Army, a grassroots organization aimed at galvanizing local support for transit. “At a certain point, people are realizing that great transit will not come from the sky,” Berrebi says. “We need to start owning this system.”

Which is what the MARTA Army is all about. Unlike your standard riders’ union or transit advocacy group, where folks vocalize and letter-write, the Army stirs up enthusiasm for Atlanta’s trains and buses by helping citizens directly improve them. Its first campaign, “Operation TimelyTrip,” encouraged citizens to “adopt” the responsibility of keeping bus stop information up-to-date; as MARTA changes its seasonal routes, the Army provides special laminated schedules for specific stops to individuals who request them, so they can help fellow riders easily navigate the system (the posters gamely advertise the names of stop-adopters). The second campaign, launched October 19, is raising funds to buy garbage bins for bus stops in East Point, a high-poverty suburb southwest of Atlanta. (The city of East Point has agreed to install and service the cans.) So far, 312 bus stops have been adopted through TimelyTrip—in neighborhoods across the income spectrum—and $5,000 in donations have been collected among community members for “Operation CleanStop,” mostly in $5 and $25 increments.


A group of young bus-stop adopters pose at a local soccer tournament. (Courtesy Brandon English/MARTA Army)

By reaching out to existing nonprofits and neighborhood groups, “we’ve made a deliberate effort to engage a diverse group of stakeholders,” says Berrebi. “It turns out there are transit nerds everywhere.”

East Point resident Dahab Hagos might be one of them. She followed her husband to Atlanta from Toronto a few years ago, and had been looking ways to improve her new city’s somewhat less connected transit system. Hagos was thrilled to donate to Operation CleanStop, and has been actively spreading the word about the campaign to family and friends. Talking about the campaign has become a way to connect with neighbors she might not otherwise, she says. “Just looking at the number of donations, I think this is mostly people who wouldn’t otherwise be coming to community events or volunteering,” she says. “People just want to help address the city’s issues in a tangible way.”

The Army pursues its operations largely independent of MARTA, but the agency gives the group its enthusiastic blessing. They’d love to be able to connect with citizens the way MARTA Army has, says Ben Limmer, MARTA’s assistant general manager, but lack the resources and staff to do it. “Not to oversimplify, but we’re very busy with our day jobs, serving hundreds of thousands of people per day,” he says. “So we saw right away that a partnership like this would be an extremely impactful way to improve and enhance the customer experience.”

Limmer draws a parallel between this relationship and other agencies joining up with Uber and Lyft to improve services. Transit providers are increasingly relying on “partners” to better serve their customers, he says.

Of course, that hits on the broader forces driving the need for a MARTA Army at all. Atlanta’s historic transit funding woes are not unique: Most transit agencies in the U.S. are operating with tighter and tighter belts, and in many cases are now forced to rely on third-party providers to fill gaps in service and amenities. Once upon a time, the job of the MARTA Army should have been the job of MARTA—and maybe it still should be. Should citizens get in the habit of assuming responsibilities typically handled by public agencies?

Berrebi says the Army’s work is really about firing up an active, committed pro-transit contingent—and about showing MARTA how to engage with them. Securing long-term transit funding was a major step for the agency, but it was only the first one, he says. To shift Atlanta towards high-capacity transit, MARTA will still need local public support—and lots of it, especially with a Congress controlled by a GOP with an anti-transit stance. “At this point, centralized planning will need all the help it can get,” Berrebi says. “We’re here to provide that.”

“Three-Parent Baby” Procedure Faces New Hurdle

Mitochondrial disease can somehow creep back in, even if a mother’s mitochondria are virtually eliminated in an attempt to block inherited illnesses

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

Mitochondrial disease can somehow creep back in, even if a mother’s mitochondria are virtually eliminated in an attempt to block inherited illnesses

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

The Mayor Who Wouldn’t Let Art Ruin His Olympics

In a stunning act of censorship, Corridart was dismantled on orders from Jean Drapeau just before the ‘76 Summer Games.

For about a week in July 1976, Montreal’s Sherbrooke Street converted into a corridor of monumental installation art, aptly named Corridart. It was intended to both showcase the avant-garde of the Quebec arts scene—then as now largely focused in Montreal—and to act as the cultural component of the 21st Olympiad. It was destroyed on mayor’s orders.

Corridart was the creation of the architect Melvin Charney and the collective work of 35 local artists, with hundreds of performers signed on to provide entertainment along its route for the duration of the Games. Running nearly five miles from the far-out futurist collection of Olympic sporting venues in the city’s East End to the hotels, office towers, universities and major cultural institutions of the city center, Corridart was an outdoor art gallery and a conceptual bridge linking two vastly different sections of the city.

On the night of July 13th 1976, it was taken down at the request of then-mayor, Jean Drapeau. This act, though illegal, was carried out by city workers escorted by Montreal police. Artists—witnessing the destruction of their works first hand—were not permitted to dismantle their creations so as to save them. All throughout the night and into the following day, city workers wrecked the installations and carted off the debris to a municipal dump. By the morning of the 14th, Corridart was history.

The documentary, À propos de l’Affaire Corridart  (audio in French) looks back at what happened to the controversial art project.

The official line from City Hall was that the art was obscene and constituted a threat to public safety and security. The issue of obscenity was roundly rejected by the local arts community and local arts critics, Corridart’s organizing committee and jury that had chosen the installations from among hundreds of proposals. Concerning public safety and security, Corridart’s organizers had fully collaborated with municipal authorities, including the roads and parks departments, to insure that all the installations were of sound design and posed no threat to the public. Adding to this was the direct appeal of provincial minister Jean-Paul L’Allier on behalf of the ‘Corridartists’ who instructed Mayor Drapeau to put everything back in its place right away.

Instead, Drapeau dug in his heels. Corridart was ‘ugly’ in his opinion, and such was apparently enough to ignore the orders of the provincial government. It didn’t matter that Quebec had provided a nearly $400,000 grant and that the artists had a right to their works.

Among the artworks deemed unacceptable by Drapeau, a gigantic stone maze, large format photographs, trees wrapped in colored fabric, kites, phone booths that played recorded messages of the ‘Corridartists’ musing about life, their work, the era they lived in. Other artworks included a cross—a replica of the one atop Mount Royal—laid on its side, as if in repose. Other works included painted curbs, a ceremonial archway, an assembly of suspended found objects meant to give the impression of weightlessness. At one point along the route, two homes with Juliet balconies were rented so a local theater troupe could present their interpretation of Romeo and Juliet. Elsewhere, stages were set up for musical acts.

It may not have been the art that offended Jean Drapeau as much as the political situation in Quebec at the time. He had been publicly humiliated after the province wrestled control of the Summer Games out of his hands by November of 1975. The budget had ballooned to 10 times the initial estimate and allegations of corruption and collusion were widespread. The province’s decision to intervene in what was initially Montreal’s Olympics may have been motivated more by simple politics than by any particular interest in combating fraud and graft. After all, two years before the Olympics the same provincial government—headed by Robert Bourassa—had convened a parliamentary commission to investigate corruption in the construction industry.

This same government was facing an election scheduled for November of 1976, and support for a separatist opposition party had been growing steadily. Whether motivated by a desire to ‘save the Games’ in order to reap a political reward or because of a legitimate belief the province could better manage the construction site is a matter still up for debate. The major venues were completed on time, but in an odd twist of fate Bourassa would lose the 1976 provincial election partly as a consequence of the massive Olympics-related debt. Stunningly, Drapeau would largely dodge the debt problem despite famously arguing an Olympics “can no more lose money than a man can have a baby.” He would serve as mayor for another decade, bringing his total at the helm of Canada’s then-largest city to thirty years.

Though the Games were no longer his baby, Drapeau was nonetheless aware this was still his city’s time to shine, and he simply wasn’t going to let anything get in his way. For years he had taken credit for Montreal’s accelerated economic growth and newfound prominence on the international stage, and the Olympics—much like Expo 67 a decade prior—was testament to his grand vision. Though he deserves credit for Montreal’s Metro and pushing for Expo 67, Drapeau also presided over excessive ‘slum clearance’ initiatives that pushed out the poor to make way for new skyscrapers and shopping malls. He advocated for highways and boulevards to push straight through the dense urban fabric, dividing neighborhoods and in some cases rezoning residential sections for light industry simply because he disliked the local district representative. He ordered the partial clear-cutting of Mount Royal (a massive, central, nature park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted) because he had heard stories of homosexual encounters in the woods.

Corridart was, at least in part, a reaction and response to the policies of Jean Drapeau, not to mention the myriad problems associated with hosting the Olympics. Then, as now, there were considerable complaints with regards to costs and access. All too often the sites chosen for ‘urban renewal’ and an assortment of highly-specialized sports venues tend to be located in poorer neighborhoods, at times requiring expropriations. In Montreal’s case, the Olympic Park was something of a compromise. Though it didn’t require widespread expropriations or ‘slum clearance’, the sporting venues were essentially parachuted into the middle of a largely working class neighborhood, halving the size of the largest park in the East End of the city. This led to an enduring complaint that Olympic Park was ‘too far’ from the city’s central business district for the throngs of tourists. That, in turn, led to concerns that the Olympics would gridlock the city’s recently expended Metro system.

For Melvin Charney, the idea that the Olympic Park was ‘too far’ away was ludicrous. Most of the city’s population lived closer to it than the city’s downtown core. Owing to the city’s rich history, unique geography and eclectic architecture, Charney was also an early advocate of promoting Montreal’s walkability. What took form, if briefly, in the summer of 1976 was a method by which Olympic tourists could be encouraged to walk the distance between the Olympic venues concentrated in the East End and the hotels, restaurants and general nightlife of Downtown Montreal. Art would be used to move people, and help bring the avant-garde of the Quebec arts scene to new prominence. The route would also trace the history of the city from the latest construction to some of the earliest structures in all of Canada.

Tying this historical narrative together was the largest individual project: a collection of seventy-one scaffolding installations, a proletarian archway crossing sidewalks and hoisting giant orange hands pointing at various buildings, historical sites and cultural institutions. Affixed to the scaffoldings were large-format photographs, mostly from William Notman, who dedicated much of his life to photographing Montreal in the late 19th century. This component of Corridart would serve as the principle continuity of the exhibit—keeping pedestrians on course, pointing out the major points of interest and showing newcomers and locals how much the city had changed.

In Drapeau’s Montreal, there would be no appeals to the judgments and decisions from up on high. The works were mostly obliterated or left exposed to the elements to disintegrate. The artists rallied around Charney and got themselves a lawyer, though the case wouldn’t be heard until the early 1980s. At trial, a new precedent was set when the presiding judge questioned the aesthetic qualities of the exhibit, stating that too many of the installations cast Montreal in an unfavorable light. The decision was appealed though it wouldn’t be heard until 1988, at which point Montreal’s new mayor, Jean Doré, decided to settle out of court. In the end, the artists received token settlements of about $3,000. Many claimed their careers had suffered as a consequence of Drapeau’s actions. Corridart is quite likely the single largest example of arts censorship in Canadian history.


Though the Games would ultimately lead to $1.5 billion debt requiring 30 years to pay off, Montreal is somewhat unique among Olympic host cities in that the facilities and venues are all still standing and have mostly served the public good. The Olympic Stadium hosted a Major League Baseball franchise for 27 years and is still used for large-scale sporting events. The Olympic Pool has become the central part of a massive public gym. The former Velodrome was converted into the Biodome, an innovative zoo in which all the animals exist in near-perfect recreations of their habitats. Though there wasn’t much of the promised economic spinoff for the area immediately surrounding the Olympic Park, the Games didn’t leave it any worse shape despite the loss of half a public park. As for Drapeau, he remained unapologetic until his death in 1999. Charney, meanwhile, eventually designed two large public spaces in the city, including the interpretive garden across from the Canadian Centre for Architecture.

Corridart represents a turning point in how Montrealers view their urban environment. In the decades that followed, major efforts were made to protect the city’s architectural heritage and make the city more livable for far more residents. Traces of Corridart appear here and there at various times of the year; they manifest in the artworks created for the annual Art Souterrain exhibit, which turns Montreal’s expansive Underground City into a massive subterranean art gallery. During recent roadwork along Saint Denis street, a giant red terrace was constructed as a means to encourage pedestrian traffic and support local small businesses. It featured banners and scaffolding arrangements similar to those found at Corridart. In time for the city’s 375th anniversary in 2017, the McCord Museum and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, along with Concordia and McGill universities, have entered into a collaborative agreement with the intention to erect artworks along a one-kilometer stretch of Sherbrooke Street.

But even after 40 years, Corridart remains controversial. Last October, one of the original Corridart installations—Pierre Ayot’s La Croix du Mont Royal— was recreated and installed in Jeanne Mance Park as part of a retrospective on Ayot’s work. Current mayor Denis Coderre found it objectionable—particularly as the replica cross is located next to a religious order—and ordered a $10,000 grant to be cancelled. After meeting with the religious order and the artists involved, Coderre decided to rescind the order, so the cross still stands. For now.

Seeing through the brain (by Chinmaya Sadangi)

29229314884_08cfd981e7_z-640x3200000-0002-8715-2896Source: Seeing through the brain (by Chinmaya Sadangi) The brain is a complex and mysterious organ, which performs many functions and the proper functioning of this precious machine is important for well-being. There are about

29229314884_08cfd981e7_z-640x3200000-0002-8715-2896Source: Seeing through the brain (by Chinmaya Sadangi) The brain is a complex and mysterious organ, which performs many functions and the proper functioning of this precious machine is important for well-being. There are about

AWS Snowball Edge offers 100TB of storage and compute functionality

snowball-edge Amazon’s popular Snowball storage container got a major update today at the company’s re:invent conference. Though largely overshadowed by the new batshit crazy AWS Snowmobile, the aforementioned Snowball will be getting a storage increase to 100 terabytes in addition to computing functionality. Users of the new Snowball Edge will be able to perform basic analysis on their data… Read More

snowball-edge Amazon’s popular Snowball storage container got a major update today at the company’s re:invent conference. Though largely overshadowed by the new batshit crazy AWS Snowmobile, the aforementioned Snowball will be getting a storage increase to 100 terabytes in addition to computing functionality. Users of the new Snowball Edge will be able to perform basic analysis on their data… Read More

“3-Parent Baby” Procedure Faces New Hurdle

Mitochondrial disease can somehow creep back in, even if a mother’s mitochondria are virtually eliminated in an attempt to block inherited illnesses

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

Mitochondrial disease can somehow creep back in, even if a mother’s mitochondria are virtually eliminated in an attempt to block inherited illnesses

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

Arctic air poised to invade the U.S. after record warm November

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The fall of 2016 has been astoundingly warm across much of North America, but indications are that this is about to change in a big way.

So, consider yourself warned. 

November will go down in the record books as one of the weirdest such months on record, with North America’s climate stuck on “roast,” at least compared to average temperatures for this time of year, the Arctic setting records for unusual warmth and low sea ice coverage, and Siberia locked in snow and cold that is even frigid for, well, Siberia. 

It now appears that some of that cold, though not the heart of it, is poised to slosh eastward and then south, into Alaska, Canada and the U.S.  Read more…

More about Science, Global Warming, Weather, Jet Stream, and Polar Vortex

Https%3a%2f%2fblueprint-api-production.s3.amazonaws.com%2fuploads%2fcard%2fimage%2f301982%2fcolduk

Feed-twFeed-fb

The fall of 2016 has been astoundingly warm across much of North America, but indications are that this is about to change in a big way.

So, consider yourself warned. 

November will go down in the record books as one of the weirdest such months on record, with North America’s climate stuck on “roast,” at least compared to average temperatures for this time of year, the Arctic setting records for unusual warmth and low sea ice coverage, and Siberia locked in snow and cold that is even frigid for, well, Siberia. 

It now appears that some of that cold, though not the heart of it, is poised to slosh eastward and then south, into Alaska, Canada and the U.S.  Read more…

More about Science, Global Warming, Weather, Jet Stream, and Polar Vortex

Everything you always wanted to know about astrocytes at #SfN16, but were afraid to ask (by Elena Blanco-Suárez)

0000-0002-8715-2896Source: Everything you always wanted to know about astrocytes at #SfN16, but were afraid to ask (by Elena Blanco-Suárez) By Elena Blanco-Suárez The session that I was most looking forward to at this year’s Society

0000-0002-8715-2896Source: Everything you always wanted to know about astrocytes at #SfN16, but were afraid to ask (by Elena Blanco-Suárez) By Elena Blanco-Suárez The session that I was most looking forward to at this year’s Society

Paris’s Groundbreaking Car Bans Face a Backlash

Mayors of neighboring cities say they’re suffering from plans to turn a major roadway into a car-free zone.

If there was any doubt that Paris is on the front line in the battle against urban car congestion, this week confirms it.

On one hand, locals are preparing for the mid-January arrival of one of the strongest car-control measures yet: a weekday driving ban on cars built before 1997. On the other hand, the city’s Mayor Anne Hidalgo, known as a promoter of pro-green policies, is facing a fierce backlash against one of her key anti-pollution measures: banning all cars from a central section of the right bank of the Seine. On Wednesday morning, 168 mayors from the Greater Paris region condemned the move in an open letter to Le Figaro, demanding its repeal. So is Paris taking a step forward or a step back?

Both upcoming laws impose tighter control on cars than you’ll find in almost any other city. Paris’s new emissions control system will require all cars driving inside the Boulevard Périphérique beltway between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. to display one of five special badges detailing its age and the emissions category it falls into. One badge, for example, is for cars constructed after January 2011 that perform to the top two tiers of the European Emissions Standards. Large trucks in the same category, meanwhile, must conform to the top tier and have been constructed since January 2014. Older cars, trucks, and motorbikes constructed to lower emissions standards are grouped in subsequent categories, until they reach cars built before 1997 or motorbikes built before 2000, which aren’t eligible for a badge at all. Any vehicle caught driving in Paris during work hours without a badge faces a €68 ($72) fine, rising to €135 ($143) for trucks.

This kind of system is possible without a five-tier system above it. The idea, though, is to classify all cars from the outset so that the weekday ban can be expanded over time to include the higher categories. To soften the blow for older car owners, the city is granting a €400 (£424) contribution toward upgrading their cars to a less polluting model.

It’s too early to see how much kickback there will be against that law, which was officially introduced in July with an agreement not to levy any fines until January 16, 2017. Paris City Hall insists that only 1 percent of drivers will be affected, suggesting that the law change is mainly about introducing the principle of the weekday driving ban, in order to tighten it further later with less resistance. If their estimates are correct, January 16 may end up passing fairly quietly.

The same cannot be said for Hidalgo’s ban on cars along the Seine’s right bank. Voted through after a tough debate in September, the car-free embankment has proved to be the most contested policy of Hidalgo’s mayorship so far. Wednesday’s letter condemning the plan comes from mayors outside Paris’s official limits who represent commuters, and from a few mayors within Paris who say through traffic has merely been displaced onto other roads in their jurisdiction.

“The aggravated encumbrances [of the road closure] lead to a deterioration of the daily life of tens of thousands of people who only want to continue their professional activities,” the letter reads. “Closing the banks has, thanks to a domino effect, consequences far beyond the official city limits, consequences which neither the state nor Paris City Hall wants to recognize.”

Their anger isn’t entirely unjustified. Certainly, closing the cross-town mini-highways that used to occupy the right bank has increased traffic on other major through-routes. Average early-evening journey times across central Paris in the area have increased by nine minutes, according to one source. Official sources insist that these delays are no more than were expected, while congestion reduced somewhat in October. That, of course, is part of the problem for suburbanites. One reason for the road closure was to make driving through Paris less attractive, cutting the number of cars in the city and encouraging a modal shift to public transit. The (very) early signs suggest this might be happening, but it’s not surprising that the people being discouraged from using the roads don’t like it.

Dig a little deeper and you’ll see that part of the conflict comes partly from a lack of an overarching body covering all of Greater Paris. While some mayors of inner Paris boroughs signed the letter, the great majority of mayor signatories represent commuter towns. Their immediate concern is making their voters’ commutes a little easier, not improving the air quality in a district they don’t represent. For Hidalgo, the situation is the opposite. Angry commuters and their representatives can make her life difficult to an extent, but they aren’t the voters she has to answer to. This places inner and outer Paris in an inevitable stand-off, at least when it comes to roads.

Developments elsewhere in Paris’s transit network could help bridge this divide. A massive expansion of the Metro system in the suburbs should ultimately attract many car commuters onto transit and break down the city/suburb division at least a little. Meanwhile, Paris Transit authority RATP made its fare system more suburb-friendly last year by slashing the cost of monthly travel passes for people on the fringes of Greater Paris. Moves like these could make some anti-car policies seem less aggressive. In the meantime, Paris’s ongoing move to reduce car traffic looks less likely to be a relentless march forward than a dance made up of steps both forward and back, of progress and reaction. Hidalgo’s response to the mayors’ letter could provide a clue as to how elaborate that dance is going to become.