We finally did it. After years of concocting excuses designed to mislead our children, we recently made the pilgrimage to Orlando, Florida, visiting both Universal Studios (3 days) and the Magic Kingdom (1 day).
Overall, it really was a fun family vacation. Our hotel, the Loews Royal Pacific at Universal, was quite nice and a mere 8 minute walk to the two Universal theme parks, Universal Studios and “Islands of Adventure.” We highly recommend this lodging, especially if your main focus is not Disney, which is about a 20-minute drive or taxi from there. Included in the somewhat high room rates were so-called “Express” passes for all four of us, a very handy perk which allows you to bypass long lines for the attractions. We felt pretty guilty walking past hundreds of exhausted, hot, and envious park-goers, but you get over it. Hey, that’s the “magic” of Orlando.
One of the major attractions of Islands of Adventure is a mock-up “Hogsmeade” village based on the Harry Potter series, complete with Olivander’s wand store, and other places Harry Potter enthusiasts will easily recognize. I found it hard to relax in the Moaning Myrtle Bathroom, but I suppose that’s the point: to chase you out quickly so that you can ingest more Butterbeer and chocolate frogs, completing the loop.
There are also several HP themed rides. One in particular, the “Forbidden Journey” in the enormous Hogwarts Castle, stands out. I guess this major “attraction” must be protected by some sort of enchantment, as it’s the only ride for which the Express pass will not work! This 3-4 minute adventure in motion sickness is not really a ride in the traditional sense, but rather a visual motion simulator; moving images are flashed at you while the seat you are bolted into (which is in turn attached to some type of robotic arm) rocks, dips, and spins you into thinking you are actually soaring through the air on a Wizard’s broomstick. Most Muggles (including my son), find this ride exhilarating and awe-inspiring. While I certainly appreciated the ride’s special effects (for all of the 20 seconds I actually had my eyes open), none of it was worth how deathly ill it made me feel for many hours thereafter. Imagine being car sick, air sick, and sea sick, all at once.
I would have done anything to escape this ride. But remembering that I couldn’t apparate on Hogwarts’ grounds, I tried passing the time distracting myself with other thoughts: could I sue J K Rowling for this? My desperation growing, I even tried summoning He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, but even he wasn’t having any of it.
After stumbling off the ride in a daze, I reached for my daughter’s $35 plastic Hermione wand, fully intending to shove it in my mouth and shout “Avada Kedavra!” She refused. After all, we had not yet visited Disney!
Here is a video of the “Forbidden” ride from Youtube:
I am thrilled to announce that our split foyer remodel will be featured in the Spring 2014 edition of “Atomic Ranch” magazine! The feature artcile begins on page 58. The magazine is available at Barnes & Noble.
This quarterly publication caters to enthusiasts of mid-century ranch homes (1940′s to 1960′s), mid-century furnishings, and period ideas. The magazine highlights interesting remodels and cost-effective remodeling ideas for ranch homes. I wrote the story that will accompany our featured remodel, drawing in part on my prior posts on this blog (see especially “Split” Voting and previous posts).
To see the ‘before” home, click here. In addition to small bump-out to the living room (which allowed us to achieve a sleeker facade), we replaced most of the windows, re-sided the home with T&G cedar (stained black), and completely gutted the kitchen, installing American black walnut “modular” cabinetry and new appliances. The article should hit the newsstands (including Barnes & Noble) sometime in late February. As always, I welcome feedback!
Before moving to the “burbs” of Long Island about 16 years ago, we were life-long residents of Queens, NY. While we still have a soft spot for that Borough and NYC in general, it became increasingly distressing to witness the rampant overcrowding of neighborhoods and the destruction of fine housing stock. Simple yet charming one-family colonials, Tudors, and bungalows transformed into multifamily apartments, businesses, and even houses of worship. This sad state of affairs was facilitated by poor, non-existent and/or unenforced zoning laws in many of city’s communities. Overcrowding aside, the lack of planning and architectural oversight led to unsightly home additions and remodels. Don’t get me wrong. Suburbia is well stocked with it own examples of poorly conceived housing and design missteps. What makes it worse is that suburbanites tend to think their own home “upgrades” and their own “design sense” is somehow superior to their city neighbors. I’m not so sure. Whether you drive through town or down a country lane, you stand an excellent chance of encountering a shockingly misguided remodel, or at least an odd exterior design element or two that leaves you wondering: what were they thinking?
So what exterior design elements bug me? I’ll start the discussion off with what might appear as a minor infraction, a petty design misdemeanor if you will. But petty it is not. I like to call this phenomenon “Shutter Madness.” But what is this remodeling crime, and why does it bother me so much?
In a nutshell, Shutter Madness is when a homeowner or his or her contractor installs (or at least tolerates) window shutters that are: (1) painfully disproportionate to the scale or size of the window(s) they flank; (2) are a completely different shape or scale than the windows (e.g., rectangular shutters next to an octagonal window — really — see photo below); and/or (3) completely inappropriate to the window type or style (e.g., shutters flanking a modern slider, awning or casement window). But is it really fair to call this “madness”? All I can say is that it drives me insane, and here’s why. Grossly mis-sizing or mis-matching a shutter just isn’t comparable to being color-challenged, which even good designers can sometimes be. Nor is it on par with poor furniture arrangement or bad lighting choices. Shutter Madness is not a matter of design talent or experience. It is something that is so contrary to common sense it can make one scream. Let’s be honest. Selecting the appropriate shutter size, shape or style should be as easy as putting square peg into a square hole. It’s just not that hard.
Ask yourself a few simple questions. What is the historic and practical purpose of a shutter? Obviously, its original purpose was to fully cover a window during stormy weather, or from prying eyes. When I see a rectangular shutter flanking an octagonal or palladian style window, or small (or any) shutters flanking a large bay window, I wonder aloud: Did the homeowner really believe that shutter could cover that window? Or worse, did he/she think others would?
Of course, most shutters installed these days are just decorative and neither will nor could ever be “closed.” But the point of a decorative shutter is to at least create the appearance of a real shutter. One that looks like it “fits” and appears to be, at least from a distance, operable and functional. Shutter Madness.
For a good, rant-free discussion of the “dos and don’ts” when using shutters as architectural elements, take a look at this article.
Here are some “crime scene” displays of Shutter Madness:
I finally got around to doing some research on this $20 “yard sale” find, which I came across a couple of years ago in vintage condition. The cool “boomerang” vinyl upholstery on the chair is undoubtably not original (unless someone can show me otherwise), but I still like it. This tilt-back walnut (or teak?) chair is likely a “Model 132” by Sigvard Bernadotte, produced in Denmark by France and Daverkosen, and well-known maker of pieces during the 1950′s and 1960′s. It now sits in our living room, and sort of defines it. Any additional information on the chair is appreciated.
Last month an ideologically divided Supreme Court all but shut down a potential avenue into U.S. courts for those seeking redress for crimes against humanity, including torture, extrajudicial killings and other violence perpetrated abroad by foreign governmental entities and aided and abetted by private corporations with U.S. ties. In Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. (click here to read the decision, and my discussion in an earlier post on this blog), certain Nigerians invoked the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), a 1789 law which allows foreign nationals to sue in the U.S. courts to redress violations of international law, even where those violations occur outside the U.S.
The ATS reads: ”The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.” While rarely used in the past, there are several recent cases pending in U.S. courts (“district courts”) that involve human rights claims under the ATS. The Supreme Court’s decision in Kiobel puts most of those cases in jeopardy.
Some background to the Kiobel case. The lower court (U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit) had thrown out the workers’ complaint, finding that the “law of nations” does not allow for corporate liability. However the Supreme Court dispensed with the plaintiffs’ position, not on the ground that corporations are necessarily immune from suit, but based upon a very narrow reading the statute. The court held that there is a legal “presumption” that the ATS does not have extraterritorial reach and, according to the court, the plaintiffs did not show that Congress ever intended the statute to apply to torts committed “outside” the U.S. According to the court, the main concern at the time the law was written was piracy on the high seas and ensuring the right of ambassadors, and Congress wanted to ensure that those who commit piracy or harm foreign diplomats could be tried in U.S. courts. Even more liberal members of the court supported the majority’s holding, mainly on the ground that the U.S. ties of the accused corporations were too far attenuated for the ATS to apply.
The Supreme Court’s decision, however, is unlikely to prevent human rights activists from litigating cases against corporations operating in the U.S. who align themselves and foreign governments and agencies that are abusing workers and denying them fundamental labor rights recognized by the International Labor Organization (ILO). While the U.S. has not ratified all the Conventions of the ILO, it acknowledges the terms of the 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
As a lawyer, I get the technical and procedural reasons why these cases often get thrown out, and I do not necessarily disagree with the Court’s rationale here, if not the result (the truth is the ATS probably wasn’t intended to cover these types of cases). However, the finding in Kiobel that the “law of nations,” which would include international human rights law, somehow does not apply to corporations, ever, is a troubling concept.
If nothing else, Kiobel should return the spotlight to the Citizens United decision, which elevated the rights and powers of corporations well beyond those of natural persons, given their already outsized power to influence the lives of others (in both democratic politics and livelihood). The newly minted “person” status achieved by U.S. corporations in the Citizens United case did not in Kiobel lead to any corresponding, personal liability for companies with U.S. contacts, slim may those contacts be, that aid and abet human rights violations. U.S. corporate officers who make life-altering decisions for the rest of us already enjoy immunity from suit for everyday “corporate” actions taken in the U.S., and in many cases there are important economic reasons for that. But the last thing our democracy needed was a new class of constitutionally protected corporate super “persons.” Citizens United should be repealed.
Election Day. By all accounts, it will be a close one. Like it or not, we only have three choices today (or weeks ago if you voted early). The choices are: (1) Left; (2) Right, or (3) “I’m going to make a point by not voting, or by voting for someone who can’t possibly win.” In our political system, someone has to win. As a practical matter, we must choose sides — one or the other. Left or Right. Upstairs or Downstairs. ”Two men enter, one man leaves . . .” Okay, so the post-Sandy hurricane gas shortage here on the East Coast has me in a “Road Warrior” state of mind. An epic battle for control of what remains of the planet, etc.
I sort of like the Upstairs/Downstairs analogy, if for no other reason than it provides a segue into this Post! Owners of split foyers know that living your life doesn’t require picking a level. You can live fully on whatever level you choose. When you elect to live in a split foyer, you accept that one level could be as important as the other. In fact, you have a foot in each world. It’s more work, moving repeatedly between two planes, but the exercise will do you good. It could also give you a more balanced perspective, from top to bottom, and from bottom to top.
Our Split Foyer remodel is virtually complete, except for some tile work above the kitchen sink counter and some window treatments (if we do any at all). I thought Election Day would be a good time to share the results, and let you vote. Yeah or Nay. Or split your vote. You won’t have that opportunity at the polls today!