Saudi Arabia plans $30 billion, mile-high tower


How high does a tower need to reach before it’s considered too high? If you think relaxing up on top of the Burj Khalifa’s At.mosphere won’t give you vertigo, try Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Tower — a structure that will extend one mile upwards — almost twice the height of Dubai’s tallest.

Those Middle Eastern princes just can’t get enough of those insanely tall skyscrapers. Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal, head of Kingdom Holding Company recently gave his approval for construction of what will be billed as the world’s tallest man-made structure — the Kingdom Tower.

Designed by Adrian Smith, the Kingdom Tower will be built in Saudi Arabia’s city of Jeddah. The tower will stretch one mile up into heavens and include 12 million cubic feet of space, several stories of office space, several stories for a hotel and four tiers of residential space, with the upper most tier reserved for “alternative energy generation” solutions (perhaps including a pendulum to keep the entire tower from collapsing).

The Kingdom Tower project is so large that it’ll cost $30 billion to construct. To get to the top from the ground floor, an elevator ride would take an estimated 12 minutes to ascend. That’s quite a journey for a view that is sure to be mostly sand and clouds.

As if it wasn’t already hard enough to keep the glass on the Burj Khalifa squeaky clean, think how much more difficult it’ll be to clean the dirt off windows twice as high up.


Caring for a dying mother in a time of revolution

Sandra Ramses is headed to Egypt to care for her ailing mother. (Photograph by: Steve Bosch, PNG)

It feels really good to have substantial space for a story I care about. I felt this way with several stories I did on the devastating earthquake in Haiti last year, as well as with The Vancouver Sun‘s recent series on refugees in Vancouver, which I was lucky enough to be a part of. I felt this way again today (and yesterday), covering the local connections to the valiant uprising in Egypt. A recent realization: If I got to travel, this would be my dream job.

From Tuesday’s Vancouver Sun:


METRO VANCOUVER – As governments around the world rush to get their citizens out of Egypt, where the political protests are rapidly escalating, one North Vancouver woman is preparing to fly into the eye of the storm.

Her voice periodically quivers as she discusses her plans, her hopes and uncertainties about going to her family in Egypt.

It seems a combination of excitement and anxiety, of passion and worry, but even Sandra Ramses herself can’t pinpoint the feelings associated with going home to care for an ailing mother in a time of revolution.

“Maybe the reason you can’t really decipher my tone is because I personally can’t, because I don’t know which way this is going to go,” said Ramses, on a break from packing her belongings on Monday. “I am pretty excited. I’m concerned when I think of my mom, but I think that’s natural.”

Ramses, 24, was born in California and has gone back to Cairo, where her family lives, every two or three years. She came to Canada at 19 to attend McGill University in Montreal, then landed in North Vancouver about a year ago.

On her last trip to Egypt, over the Christmas break, Ramses learned her mother’s breast cancer had spread into her liver, bones, lungs and brain. Doctors told her she had four or five months to live.

“I came back here to pack my things and quit my job and make sure the legal stuff is under control and leave, and now all this happens,” said Ramses of the mass demonstrations since Jan. 25. “I thought it’d be best to leave [today] because I think the later the delay, the more uncertainty there is.”

Thousands of people, including hundreds of Canadians, crowded into the Cairo airport Monday trying to get a flight out before today’s protest, expected to be the biggest yet and cause further disruptions to air and rail transportation.

Ramses will board a London-bound flight at Vancouver International Airport tonight. She will likely stay overnight in London, as Cairo-bound flights and ground transportation will be affected by the 3 p.m. to 8 a.m. curfew, she said.

Ramses said the uncertainty of having her family half a world away has her more worried about the prospect of staying in Vancouver than flying into Egypt, where the uprising has claimed more than 100 lives.

Continue reading here.

B.C. woman reduced to tears by airport security rethinks air travel

Elizabeth Strecker, 82, says she is humiliated after airport security in Calgary forced her to reveal her gel breast prosthesis. (Photograph by: Global B.C., Global News)

Well this is humiliating. From my story in Saturday’s Vancouver Sun:

An 82-year-old Abbotsford woman is considering giving up air travel after a humiliating encounter with airport security screeners.

Elizabeth Strecker said when screeners at Calgary International Airport asked her whether she was carrying any liquids or gels before boarding her flight back to B.C. last week, it never crossed her mind to mention the gel prosthesis she’s worn since losing a breast to cancer.

“It never entered my mind,” Strecker told The Vancouver Sun Friday, with anger still apparent in her voice. “Why does the whole world need to know?”

Screeners sent Strecker for a secondary inspection at the security checkpoint, where she was then subjected to a pat-down and forced to reveal the prosthesis in public. She said she was never given the option to go through a full-body scanner and didn’t know she could ask to be screened in private room.

“Being in public, and being touched like that, it was really, really not called for,” she said. “After all, I was coming home from Christmas with my kids [in Calgary]. I didn’t go into a different country, I didn’t go across the country. I went on a one-hour flight home and they made me feel as though I was a terrorist. That I resent with all my heart.”

Continue reading here.

Library bars

The Wellesbourne, in Los Angeles, Cali.
Styleture has a neat post about a number of sexy Los Angeles-area library bars — “drinking establishments that have lined their walls, and shelves, with everything from hardbound classics and modern novellas to law encyclopedias and philosophical tomes.” They have four posted, but the one that really appeals to me is the Wellesbourne, the cozy one pictured above. A couple more shots of it:

Seems like the kind of place you could easily lose yourself in for a few hours, no? A commenter also posted a link to Hemingway’s, in Hollywood, which looks pretty cool too:

Note to self: Must check out the next time I’m in LA/Hollywood, whenever that may be.

Check out the other three on Styleture’s list here.