Daily Archives: June 9, 2008

Slat Overview–4I3

Slat: more than just a Runway

6/9/2008

Just as Idaho is known for its potatoes, Slat is known for its airplanes. This Southwest Canton hosts the largest airport for hundreds of miles: Albeit International, which handles both regional flights and international airlines looking for new waters. Granted, it’s a beautiful place: the arboretum on the inside and wooden superstructure on the outside give it a presence that rivals Stapleton International itself. Unfortunately for those who live amidst the runways, AI is more of a nuisance than anything else.

For one, there’s the noise. Even with liberal airport boundaries that keep most houses well out of the reach of passing jets, Slat isn’t the place to go for a quiet stroll or a lazy day at the park. There is a reason why this Canton sells more decibel meters and sleeping pills than the other ten neighborhoods combined.

One of Slat’s 27,000 residents put it this way:

“When I got here, I thought to myself: ‘What a steal! Three bedrooms, three bathrooms, and a beautiful view of a park.’ Problem is, the shower heads rattle when I bathe, bedrooms aren’t much good when you can’t sleep, and the park reeks of kerosene. I’d be better off living underground.”

About forty percent of Slat lies in the infamous “Earplug Zone,” where residents get treated to 100+ decibels of noise every other minute. Indeed, apartments here sell for less than luxury cars, but soundproofing usually falls on the tenet’s shoulders. Plane spotters have little problem with the airport’s proximity, but for the other 90 percent of residents, the planes are nothing to look at—and too much to hear.

If Albeit International was a noise problem alone, residents might be more cordial to the airport. Unfortunately, the second largest international hub in the Mountain West tends to overshadow everything else in the area.

“You mention to someone that you’re from Slat, and it’s never, ‘Oh, how is the food there?’ or ‘Why, you have such nice houses!” It’s always about the airport, one hundred percent, and I’m yet to get into a discussion about anything else.” So lamented a veteran resident of Slat, and not without reason. Even the name of the Canton refers to airplanes.

What, then, remains of Slat when AI and its sphere of influence is ripped out of the picture? Plenty. Slat, ironically, has the highest concentration of recording artists and music studios in all of Albeit; perhaps the soundproofing has something to do with it. Slat also boasts a distinctive architectural tradition. Every so often, a group of prospective owners will visit the airport’s scrap yard, steal a few tails and nacelles and build a house out of them. Such “wing houses” are extremely popular in the city; some of the better built have even received mention in cutting edge architectural magazines.

Slat also specializes in writing and film. A host of poets lives in what they call the “Jet blast commune,” where two dozen or so writers bounce ideas off one another and share their earnings. Film making also has its roots, but as most interests in Albeit go, moviemakers here carry out their work in private.

No discussion of Slat’s strong points could continue on without a mention of Raumschiff, perhaps the most secretive “Secret Society” of them all. Rumor has it that this group started up back in 1984, beating out the airport by a year. It is said to be behind a number of projects in the southwest region, including the famous “Spire of Questions” that was erected near Runway 10, the mile-long street painting on Judicial Road and a series of mysterious radio broadcasts from KALB 1440. It is widely believed that their “base,” should one even exist, lies below one of Albeit International’s runways.

Slat is tired of its designation as the “Airport Canton.” Talk to any Slat resident who’s not preoccupied with film work, poem writing or a Raumschiff project, and they’ll explain to you how Slat is a misunderstood oasis for creativity and originality. Of course, you might not be able to hear them.

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How to make your candle hover

[I discovered this trick after a heat wave passed through the Washington area. Come to think of it, that’s probably the only way I would have discovered it.]

The hovering candle

6/9/2008

Ever wondered how you could turn your everyday jar candle into a gravity-defying wonder? (Probably not, but please—don’t stop reading just yet.) Here’s a nifty summertime trick for making a candle that your guests and family members will marvel at.

First, you’ll need a transparent jar candle, preferably four inches or more in height and five inches or more in width. (It’s quite possible to do it with smaller versions, though.) Another important element: there should be a tall enough gap between the top of the wax and the top of the glass. Pour water over this gap until the surface of the water meets the top of the jar.

With your submerged candle in hand, it’s time to explore the properties of wax. Go outside with your special candle and set it on the windowsill, deck or any other extraneous surface. The thermometer should read ninety degrees or higher. (If you happen to live in Moscow or Fairbanks, try putting your jar in the oven instead—what matters here is that the surrounding temperature is warm.) After it’s placed, walk back inside, pick up your newspaper and study foreign affairs for a few hours.

Keep checking on the candle until—gasp! The wax seems to have risen into the air. Why? once the candle melted from the heat, it naturally rose above the denser water until the wax and liquid switched places.

The following steps are much easier. Take your candle back inside and pop it in the fridge. Once it seems to have solidified, take a pen that you don’t care much for and poke it through the wax; keep pushing until it breaks into the pool of liquid. Now—very carefully—tilt the glass upside down over the sink until all the water has poured out.

You’re now left with the oddest of sights: a candle that seems to have burnt from the bottom up. Though it’s possible that the dried wax will slide back to the bottom of the jar, it’s likely to remain a conversation piece for quite some time.

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The Two Faces of Segregation

[A possible Highlander editorial in the future, but for now, a standalone piece.]

The Two Faces of Segregation

6/9/2008

Kenneth Burchfiel

The history books purport that segregation ended on the 2nd of July, 1964, the moment the Civil Rights Act was passed. No longer could a white owner evict an African-American tenant based on the color of his or her skin. No longer, the bill claimed, would students be classified by race and shipped off to separate schools.

I wish with all my heart that the professors of history were correct; as it is, they were only half right. The lawmakers took care of the legal side of segregation, but its subtler, more prevalent cousin lives on.

The story of the divided fifties and sixties was the story of “de jure,” or “by law,” segregation. Jim Crow laws and court rulings that declared schools to be both separate and equal were but a few examples of the legalized division that King and Malcolm X took on. Though only part of the problem, de jure segregation took on the term’s full definition—as if the only things keeping one race from the other were bills and legislation.

This was the concrete, conspicuous half of segregated America; in all honesty, it was also the tamer side. The laws that divided white and black were imposing at their height, yet weak enough to be shattered by judges’ gavels and Johnson’s pen. Today, de jure segregation exists only in the history books.

Unfortunately, the issue of segregation goes far beyond the reach of bills and court rulings. Children of all races are allowed to laugh and learn together in the same classroom, yet the school at which I learn is mostly white—and the school at which I tutor nearly all Hispanic and African American. No landlord may deny a prospective tenant housing on the basis of skin color, but regardless, neighborhoods in the capital city are still classified as “black” or “white.” The famous legal decisions of the fifties and sixties had a muted impact on the demographics of colleges, let alone lunch tables.

The problem is that, engrossed in the timid creature that is segregation by law, our historians and lawmakers forgot about a much larger and more dangerous animal. It cannot be reined in with court proceedings or tranquilized with amendments; it prowls every neighborhood street, every office building in the United States. Worse yet, this animal is largely invisible.

The name most assign this creature is “de facto” segregation. It is comprised not of court rulings nor congressional decisions, but of economic gaps and subtle prejudices that still manage to tear us apart.

Consider this tale of two schools. McLean High of Northern Virginia is 70 percent white; MacFarland Middle, nestled in Northwest Washington, is 100 percent non-white. The former is included (however arbitrarily) in Newsweek Magazine’s “Top 100” public schools list for 2008; MacFarland made less positive headlines for a school shooting in 2006. McLean just had a renovation, whereas MacFarland looks ready to crumble.

No longer can these discrepancies be explained away by de jure segregation. They point instead to a sobering reality: economic gaps and our own closet prejudices are holding minorities back from the schools and jobs that they deserve. There are no laws left to scapegoat, no segregationists to point the finger at. You and I are the problem.

Take your eyes off the paper or screen and look around. Chances are, you are surrounded by people who look like you, speak like you and might even dress like you. The newspapers can talk all they want about this supposed age of integration, but the typical American goes a long way towards disproving them.

We cannot blame “the man” for de facto divisions; instead, it’s time that we mustered up the courage to blame ourselves. Lunch tables, office boardrooms and even the houses of Congress are all evidence of the same fact: the majority of Americans are self-segregating, no matter their intent. Today’s supposed post-racial country has carried on its old traditions of division and discrepancy, thanks in part to citizens like me who are too lazy, too scared—to brain-dead to fully integrate.

The good news is that, in being the problem, we are also the solution. King and Malcolm X had to cut their way through legal undergrowth for the house of de jure to fall, but we merely need to reach out to those who seem the most distant from us. Every new handshake or friendship on our part is a nail in the coffin; every step towards equality in payment and job opportunity will help put this era to rest.

The civil rights heroes of the fifties and sixties spoke of the need to wake up to the prejudiced laws in America. I suppose it is time that we woke up to our prejudiced selves, got out of bed and fought for economic and social change in a still-divided country. Until that point, the history books that write about the “end” of segregation will only be telling half the story.

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