Dec 25, 2004

Merry Christmas

After twenty four hours of international travel, and an aggravating wait at New York's JFK airport, we arrived in Salt Lake City, luggage and all. We were were second to arrive at the hilltop mansion after Grandma Case. For the next three days, all we did was shop. and shop and shop. Although I had already finished my Christmas shopping, I did a surprising lot of tagging along shopping. It's not like there was anything else to do up at the house, apart from reading and netting. Mom also got some laundry done. It was really nice for two days when Taylor and I got our own beds and our own room. My cousin Casey came in the other night, the day before my uncle Tracy and his family arrived. After Tracy et al arrived, I lost a bed and was shunted to the couch, which, I suppose, is preferable to the green mats on the floor. Taylor is in a sleeping bag.
The Scheers have a new dog, a 9 month old siberian husky bitch named Tomika. She's one wild dog, excitedly running around everywhere. She's big, but she's not quite grown so she still trips over herself occationally. She is still a bit bitey. We played catch out back in the snow, and she could only remember to bring the ball back every other throw.
Christmas eve dinner was a restaurant takeout lasagne. We also had salad, bread, and a Yule Log cake complete with bark frosting and merangue mushrooms. It was really mediocre, more visually sumptious than flavorful. Christmas eve all the "kids" stayed up to talk. I went to bed early, informed that we'd be opening presents at 7:30. AM. Insane.
I didn't sleep well. Headache, and discomfort with my new sleeping arrangements. Heard "Santa" moving around at 3:00 AM and pretty much tossed and turned utill rising at about six. Once everyone was awake, we had a remarkably organized present opening. My biggest surprise was a Creme Brulee sugar carmelizer mini propane torch with four ramekins. The least surprising present was a hat that I negotiated for and purchased in the Moscow markets. My main present is sking, and a large format printer.
Today, Christmas day, we unwrapped presents, and ate a lot of chocolate and junk food. We picked up our ski gear, and then ate dinner. We had turkey, rolls, mashed potatoes, and dressing, all covered with giblet gravy and all homemade and declicious. We finished off the evening playing a family tournament of Blackjack. Taylor finished second to Danny, with Uncle Tracy dealing the whole game. We ski Alta tomorrow.

Dec 22, 2004

Trapped in Teatime

Lets see, monday was a very full day. Highlights: Red Square, The Kremlin, A Russian Church which was covered with guilded religious Ikons on every surface, the Fabrege Eggs, A massive bronze statue of Peter the Great as Colombus, overpriced Cappuchinos at Gum, A bus tour which took us all around moscow including the imposing Moscow University in one of Stalin's seven sisters. I guess monday was also the "Horrors of Stalinism" day as I saw the final resting place of the bloodiest, most psychotic dictator to ever live, the state political apartments where he had 90% of the residents killed, and the Lubyanka, headquarters of the KGB which also contained various rooms for torture and a prison. Its also the location of the KGB museum, which I plan to visit when I return to Moscow. The tour guides are actually former KGB agents and officers, so I shall try hard not to be too revolted.
I've decided that Sartre should have set No Exit in an international flight that never ends. It's just miserable. You're supposed to be like a vegitable: just sit there in the fixed position, dont think, don't move, just eat the stale pretzels as the flight crew periodically waters you. In a kind of coincidal effect of the plane traveling against the earth's rotation at about the same speed, it was about two o'clock for the entire nine hours. Anyway, at least there were no major problems, except we were a little tight on time in our New York connection. At least I slept some on the Utah flight.
Utah is cold, and it was snowing, but it feels warmer than Moscow. Probably because it's drier here, and lacking the frigid wind that chills Moscow streets. Today I went shopping with the family, mailed Jen's Christmas present, and worked out with Uncle David. You know, when I get back to Tempe, I'm going to need a vacation, just some time to unwind.

pictures of moscow

You can find the best of the pictures I took here at my online gallery.

Dec 20, 2004

Soviet Subway

Had a good breakfast this morning, omelets and toast. Then our Russian tour guide met us at the apartment building. Felix is a large Russian who looks more like a Boris. He walked mom and I over to the metro and we began the tour. It was really quite interesting, as the ornamentation reflects the culture, history, and politics of the time. We saw stained glass windows, massive utopian propagana tile mossaics, bronze statues, and arches everywhere. The way the metro works is that you pay one fare and can travel anywhere in the city. This frees up the design of the platforms a lot. Instead of multiple platforms with an island dividing the tracks, you have one platform with tracks on both sides. It was all very interesting. We also stopped to have a look at the Bolshoi theater.
After a few hours, we went to an expensive department store and picked up some stuff for dinner.
I took a short walk around the neighborhood, took some pictures, and then came back home for dinner. After dinner, we caught the Metro to Red Square. Standing there, with St.Basil's in front and the tomb of Lenin to my right, it really hit home that I was in Moscow. We walked back through Gum, a huge upscale mall. Its actually all these old buildigns which have been connected by bridges and covered by glass roof. Pretty, with all the lights inside.
Afterwards we came back and I handed out my christmas presents to the family and we ate ice cream. Currently, we're watching Troy.

Dec 19, 2004

Budweiser Mickey

We all went to Hard Rock Cafe for breakfast this morning. I couldn't believe how cold I was. I think its just perception, since I didn't feel nearly that cold for the rest of the day. I was wearing everything from the long underwear to my wool scarf. HRC was located on Arabat street, a sort of sleepy tourist trap with old pre-revolutionary buildings lining it. Had some retched cappuchino, and then we had fun watching three people dressed in cartoon outfits. There was donald duck, some other character, and mickey mouse wearing a budweiser jacket. Had a really mediocere breakfast burrito. I guess I've just been spoiled in the US. When I first came here I was struck by how difficult life here was for an expat, with the language barrier, traffic, etc etc. It's nothung but a constant struggle. But I thought back to Living in Beijing and Singapore, and I remembered that when you are the new expat, you just take it all in stride because theres nothing else one can do.

We took the metro to the Tourist market afterwards. It was a themed market, with a ticketed fare, sort of like the a Russian Rawhide. There's wooden russian towers everywhere, and the ticket collectors wore traditional russian costumes. Vendors inside sold the classic tourist stuff: Pirated DVDs and CDs, Nesting Dolls, fur hats, laquered boxes, etc. I bought a Russian army cap. A man came and drew a quick sketch of me in charcoal, so I bought it for about ten bucks. It was overpriced, but oh well. We left after dad complained he couldn't feel his toes. I was getting cold too, and although the market was huge, it was variations of the same junk.

We took the metro to Gorbushka next, a sprawling complex of three massive multifloored warehouses, each floor crammed with tiny stalls crammed with electronics, celll phones, stereos, appliances, laptops, and flatscreen TVs. It's pulled straight out of a William Gibson novel. Also crammed full of people. Every stereo is on, and every screen is filled with movies, so its quickly overwelming. I actually got lost at one point, had to go to the outside, and find my way back by walking around the building back to the original enterance. After a few hours, Taylor bought a stereo, and we carried it back on the metro.

For dinner, we went to an Azerbaijani restaurant, and I got some steak peices. They were alright, but nothing spectacular. The table next to ours had a whole roasted lamb. We drove home and then watched The Incredibles. Tomorrow I'm taking a metro tour.

Dec 17, 2004

Brrrrrr......

Lets see... wednesday I spent running errands, packing, finishing things up. I also took my last final exam. Wednesday night Jen and I went to go see Shaun of the Dead, a british zombie spoof. I thought it was very funny, but then it got much more serious and dramatic towards the end. Anyway, got up at 5:30 AM thursday... It's friday night now, so it kind of feels like a sly trick was played on me. Took the Supershuttle to the airport and got my tickets. My trip over here was so miraculously problem free, I'm starting to worry about things at home. I never waited more than ten minutes before my flights started boarding. At sky harbor, I didn't even have time to finish my Chai Latte before the flight. In Cincinnati and JFK in New York, I walked off the plane, walked to the gate, and waited in line to board. The flight to Moscow was a mercifully short 8.5 hours, a mere bagatelle compared to the 14 hour humps from Chicago to Beijing, or Beijing to Paris. My only complaint was that I had the middle seat every flight but the shortest, and every flight was overbooked. I spent the time in transit mostly tearing through the last book in the Gunslinger series by Steven King. He really is getting a bit too cocky, making himself one of the most important (if minor) figures in his novel. Ah well, the gunslinger series is his Magna Opus, supposedly his last published work. We'll see. When we touched down, I got really excited because I realized where I was. There was snow on the ground, bare cedars and black trees, and soviet everything. Moscow is the ancient and current capital, and it's set in the middle of a forrest far to the north. So much for 80 degree warmth and sunshine. Anyway, I deplaned in good time, took only five minutes to get through immigration, my bags were among the first off the conveyer belt, and so I was the first through customs. Mom was there to meet me, dressed up like a muscovite with her black hat and black mink coat. I wrapped myself up in Jen's scarf and entered wonderfully refreshing cold. The drive reminded me a lot of Beijing, the kind of gray crumblingness, the gaudy desperate attempts to cover the decay, the massive public housing complexes. For someone so heavily drilled to work only orthogonally, the apartment staggered me momentarily, since the hall bisected the rooms at a 45 degree angle, causing all the doors to the rooms to be at the corners. The bathroom is a real peice of work; part Trump Towers, part Starship Enterprise, part Atlantis.
Hmmph. Just sat down and suddenly I feel like I can barely keep my eyes open. Danged jet lag. I was only able to grab a few hours of sleep on the plane. After I arrived, mom took me shopping. We went to a drugstore, and then to the grocery store, then to the liquor store. It's really quiet now, as Tay and Dad have to fight traffic for hours to get home. Chili for dinner.

Dec 15, 2004

Close-Knit

Today I spent studying for my final in religion and popular culture. Took the test with about a quarter of the class as the final was optional. I found out I got an A on my Life of Pi paper, but I wanted to do what I could to bring my exam averages up. It's a toss up as to if I'll get an A to a B. We have the + and - system now, with A+ being a 4.33 and B as a 3.0. Also figured that no matter what I get on my computer modeling portfolio, I'll most certainly get a B+ to a B. However, I'm confidant I have at least an A in sociology, and perhaps even an A+. (This for the class which has taught me next to nothing). The exam in Relgion wasn't hard, but it was short essay questions, so we shall see.
Did laundry at the coinless laundromat tonight, and I thought about how mom must envy me. After I got back from the laundromat, Jen gave Ben his Haunaka present and me my Christmas present. It was a little early, but she couldn't wait. Ben got a whisky glass with the Jack Daniels logo on it, something he'd eyed wistfully before. Jen knitted me a gorgeous lambswool scarf. Its charcoal grey and with cable stitching that reverses halfway, and its about seven feet long. She made it for me to take to Moscow and Salt Lake. I havn't finished wrapping her present yet, but I'll give it to her tomorrow. Wish me luck on my Sociology Exam at 7:30 AM tomorrow morning!

Dec 13, 2004

Icee Monday

Last night I went to do some field research by attending a youth group service at a local church with Jen and Amy. To my surprise, behind the alter table, there was a band set up with electric guitars and drums. They have replaced the organ and chancel choir. It is interesting that alternitive rock has become as means of worship as the songs they played, people (all teens to early twenties) stood and lifted thier hands in worship. Anyway, after we got back I was dismayed to find a two and a half foot long scratch/dent in the van door. I was not happy as we are trying to sell the cars, but I should be glad that nothing has happended to the convertable yet (knock on wood). Its just an expense and a pain.
Had a busier day today. Started by getting up at 8 and working at the habitat warehouse for about five hours. I had one volunteer to help me and together we moved a bunch of doors and framed windows. After she left at noon, I mostly hauled furanture around with the help of a pallet jack. After that, I drove up to scottsdale to pick up Taylor's orthodontal records. They must have though I was some kind of transient when I walked in, still filthy from working at the warehouse. We had a high of 80 today and so I stopped on the way home to grab an icee.
After a short nap, I finished my Religion essay and started to study for the test tomorrow. Updates later.

Dec 12, 2004

The Prodigal Brother

Wow, what a day. Not only did I lose my brother in one of the most crime-ridden developed countries in the world, but I also got him back. And I never even knew about it. Poor mom, it reminds me of the time I abandoned Taylor in Singapore.
Last night I went to a party at the crazy house. Didn't stay too long. It was unusally quiet there.
Personally, I had a really relaxing day. I slept in and had muffins for breakfast, then I finished putting my studio pictures on the disc and turned them in. It was a gorgeous day here, got up to 79 degrees. I broke out my sandals and tee-shirts and drove around in the convertable with the top down. Also bought a wool hat for moscow. It's odd to think that in less than a week I'll be some place so cold that mercury freezes. Today I also did some more work on my religious architecture essay. Had frozen pizzas for dinner. After I read that mom wasn't going to be making cookies this year, I set out to bake Rolo cookies. I don't think I got the right recipie of the internet. It was good, but not great.
Tomorrow I'll finish my essay and do some more studying.

Dec 10, 2004

The Missing Week

I've had a fairly uneventful week, and one of the most surprisingly relaxed finals weeks I've ever had. I had one final monday, and I've got one next tuesday and wednesday. My other classes just require projects and papers. For pop culture and religion, I'm writing a paper on religious architecture, a really interesting and controversal field of design. I've read perspectives on it from athiest architects to pastors, and they all agree that the main purpose of the church is to assist people in the awareness of God. The other project is a computer modeling protfolio, which I just finished yesterday. That was just fun to do. I wish I could say that I struggled and stressed out all night to heroically finish by the today, but last night Jen, Amy, Ben, and I all went out to Bison Witches, a really good deli with massive sandwiches.
After we got back, Ben and I exchanged presents. I gave him a Chanuka present (wrapped in reversed Christmas wrapping paper) of a book of American Phrases and thier origins. He gave me Master and Commander, a movie which I haven't seen yet.
Speaking of presents, I got all of my Christmas shopping done and all the presents wrapped earlier this week.
Today I'll turn my computer modeling project in, work some more on my religion paper, and start some reading I need to do for my optional final in Pop Culture and Religion.

Dec 7, 2004

Architecture final- Done!

Took my architecture final this morning. I think I got an A on it, although it's hard for me to tell. Fortunately it's counted only as one of the regular exams (there are four total), so I think I will be able to swing an A for that class. I'm feeling really solid in sociology. Got my paper back on the culture of the architecture school with a 95% on it. There are people in the class who still don't know what a survey is. That final is the last day of school the 15th, the day before I take off for Moscow. Today after my classes, I finished another image for my formZ computer modeling class portfolio. I put a picture of it online here. Took about two days to make, althogh the painting on the screen really sells the image. I also started work on a futurisitic castle. Tomorrow, I think I have only one class in the late afternoon, so a good time to get some errands run. Wednesday there's no school, and thursday, finals begin. At least, for most other people. :)

Dec 2, 2004

Merry Kitschmas!

It's officially Christmastime, according to Frys, Target, and MSNBC. Well, thank goodness for these helpful indicators of when its time to start shopping. However, it did put me in kind of a christmas mood, so I put up a paper snowflake in the widow, and a paper snowdrift on the ledge. The woman next door must think that we're absolutely nuts, with the gruesome rotting skull and chains on halloween, now a little christmas kitsch. I've got a handle on my final projects and exams, and its kind of strange because I feel really relaxed and not stressed at all. All my friends are going nuts over their final exams in this "crunch week" (finals start next thursday). I'm doing the work I need to, getting stuff done, studying, but I'm oddly at peace. Maybe next to the nightmarish crunch of architecture, this is nothing. My finals this year are actually pretty simple.
Arch studio: we have to photograph all our models and turn them in on a disk. Thats it. Thank you very much.
Arch Lecture: a final exam, not even cumulative, covering the postmodernists and unclassifiables like Scarpa and Barragan. (I'll take those two any day of the week over More, what a nut job!)
FormZ: a portfolio of 5-10 models from formZ, three of which can be our last projects already accomplished. I've already finished a fourth, rendering Grandpa Perkins old hanging telephone.
Sociology: A little tougher, an exam with an essay. But she gave us a list of terms and four essay questions to pick from .
Religion and Pop culture: an intersting assignment. 5 pages doublespaced on spirtuality in architecture, especailly postmodern, since its postmodern architecture for postmodern religion.
Easy as pie. We'll just have to see about grades. I'll know better by next week. I know for sure I have an A in architecture studio though.

Dec 1, 2004

Final Crunch (take two!)

It's good to be home, but I've had better days. Didn't get much sleep last night, not good since I got into town late as it was. Found out I'd overdrawn my account at one point, so I was hit with a heavy overdraft fee. Then my Cox email account quit on me. After ditching computer modeling to finish a short paper on two chapters I forgot to read for today, the teacher said that she was no longer requiring papers. My grades in that class also indicate that I've missed two of those papers, but its impossible to figure out my final grade since the TA hasn't been doing her job. I think I can pull of an A though, but definately a B. I also had to pay eight dollars for a thick packet of architecture readings, and that our test is NEXT MONDAY in that class. When I went to air up my tires, the pump broke, so I had to find my mini-pump to air them up. It just feels like I've been running around all day.

Some good things that happened were that I got a lot of small errands done, like depositing checks, doing emails, etc, and I did get part of my reading done for architecture. We watched Dogma in Religion and popular culture, which was fun and just what I needed. Suki's finally calmed down and not in our faces all the time demanding attention. The cox email account was re-activated quickly and easily after I called up thier customer support. Dinner could have been better, but I'll go grocery shopping tomorrow. At least my headache went away. I wonder if its a sugar addiction headache. I'll have to keep an eye on that. Oh, and the last good thing is that in architecture, our last project is to take a bunch of pictures of our models and submit them on disc. Well, thats all for now, gonna get some sleep.

Nov 28, 2004

Camo for the whole family!

Busy day today. Got up and finished my sociology report this morning while Grandma Perkins went to sunday school and church. After she got back, I helped her move some Christmas decorations to the house from the storage shed. I emailed my paper to the professor and got a response that it would be fine to turn it in a day after I said I was going to (monday), so that worked out nicely. Talked to mom and dad in Moscow this afternoon; they're going to fly out to Oklahoma after they spend some time in Utah. Since they had to move to a new room they havn't had any internet access, so that's why mom isn't updating her blog. Not sure if/when they'll visit Phoenix. Made me realize I'm leaving for Moscow in 18 days. In that time, I have to make a portfolio for architecture (not the upper division one, but a practice), a portfolio of formZ work, write a paper on Religious architecture, and prepare for two final exams.
I dont think I'm going to have a lot of time for my Student Encyclopedia of Architecture. Something to do over winter break, I guess.
I feel like I'm jumping from one crunch to another. At least Oklahoma was a nice break.

Anyway, after dark, Grandma and I hit the wild nightlife of Oklahoma City. We first went to Pro Bass Shop, an amazing store for a variety of reasons. It's a massive store, sized about the same as a WalMart supercenter. It's basically a popular and an REI rolled into one, with a beefed up fishing and hunting side. They had an entire quarter of the store devoted to camoflauge. They had hats with camo mesh, camo sweats, camo tents, camo camelbacks (camobacks?) and even camo pjamamas for the little ones. Lots of guns. An entire wall almost of rifles and shotguns. Apart from the outdoor gear, they also sold general clothing, fishing boats, and electronics. However the think that struck me most was that they had stuffed animals EVERYWHERE around the store in thier natural enviornments: bison roamed with wolves above men's sweaters, ducks flew above the gun rack, and there was a giant aquarium in the back filled with trout and catfish, one of which still with a hook in its mouth. They had a Remington hat I was going to pick up for Ben for Christmas, but they didn't have Winchester or Mossin Nagant.

After that, we went on a free canal trip around bricktown, where they showed the lights and the new development following the anchor building of a Harkins theater. It was cool, but not too cold. When we crossed under the "echo bridge" the guide shouted "boomer!" and the people on the boat shouted "sooner!" and they repeated it three times. Oklahoma!

Next stop was the World of Trees, a bunch of fake trees decorated by various countrie's representatives. The French tree was decortaedby the French Club at this one school, and they had a Germans from Russia tree which was decorated by the Germans from Russia Organization. I had more fun reading about which organization made the tree rather than the trees themselves. The chinese tree was only decorated in tiny southern chinese style shirts. I didn't even know they had Christmas in China.
There were some other organizations trees, too, like the woodturners guild had some really nice decorations, and the firefighters tree used yellow caution tape for ribbon.

Then we walked to the Myriad Gardens, which had a really interesting building, a perfectly round massive cylender lying on its side, spanning a narrow lake. The exterior was a steel frame with glass panels, and apparently it was the garden's tropical conservatory. Unfortunately, it was closed. Last stop was Zio's, for a bite of pizza, before heading back to the house.

Nov 27, 2004

Fractured Family Thanksgiving

I am really glad I came to Oklahoma for thanksgiving. With Mom and Taylor in Moscow, Dad in Bulgaria, and and few of my friends in town, I would have had a very lonely Thanksgiving. However, the ones that were in town did generously offer to have me over at thier thanksgiving dinners, if I didn't have anywhere else to go. Touched as I was, after the school moved the project due date up, I decided to go to Oklahoma. I wanted to be surounded by family on my first major holiday really apart from the immediate family, and I didn't know when I'd be coming back to Oklahoma.

Had a bit more laid back morning then yesterday. Slept in and then spent the rest of the morning helping Grandma Perkins get dinner ready. Grandma Case showed up first with a pumpkin and pecan pie. It was really good to see her, and we all talked while getting the feast prepared. Jeff, Ashley, and Karsten came next. Jeff really reminds me of Dad, made me miss him even more. He made the whipped potatoes and they brought green bean casserole and some other things. We had a ton of food. Besides the green bean casserole, there was a corn salad, a fried okra salad, cornbread stuffing (with and without oysters), a whole smoked turkey, baked rolls, gravy, a ham and cheese platter, and cranberrry marshmello salad. I stuffed myself, but less than usual, saving room for a slice of each pie.

Karsten has grown a lot, although he still loved posing for pictures. He's into legos now. So is Jeff, but he's more interested in buying and selling them on ebay. Ashley was interviewd on the local Oklahoma news for her role as a coordinating director for the downtown Oklahoma City christmas decorations. Josh came by for a short while after dessert and had a plate. He's thinking about a job at UPS. He's as tall as I am, and still couldn't believe that Taylor was taller than us both. I took a few pictures. After dinner, we all sat around talking for a bit, Jeff trying to fix grandpa's computer, Karsten playing with his trains and trying to make a pryamid with mummies in my FormZ computer modeling program.
In all, a very fine thanksgiving.

Nov 26, 2004

Cornbread and Milk

Got up with the chickens this morning at 7:15 AM. Its the earliest I've gotten up all semeseter, not counting the times I've worked through the dawn. Grandma Perkins and I went down to a giant rummage sale to set up a church women's group tables. They were selling popcorn kernals with sodas, and other baked goods and miscillaneous items. The sale had been set up in the gutted building which housed a WalMart which had moved across the street in a SuperCenter format, but a miniature version. Inside, there were 60 booths, all selling various heartland Americana, from crochetted bible covers, ceder porch swings, homemade jams, jigsaw cut crosses, old clothes, pillows, to indian embroidered towels. There was even a taiwanese gentleman who was selling intricately carved wood animals and cork landscapes. They looked like they'd just been taken from the streets of the tourist markets in Beijing. After I helped them set up, we went to Sonic for breakfast. Later that day, Grandma made hot rolls, and we took some of those to the women working the booth. We also stopped by WalMart for a bit to see what their specials were. Nothing spectacular.
We also went to go pick up a smoked turkey from the Glazed Ham Company. After we got back, late in the afternoon, Grandma asked me if I wanted cornbread and milk. I said sure, foolishly imagining I'd get a sice of cornbread with perhaps a bit of butter, and a glass of milk. Instead I was served a mug with some cornbread covered in milk with a spoon. Grandpa tucked right in, saying it was good when he just wanted a little something. It wasn't bad, I have to say. I'll have to remember that one for when I have some stale cornbread left over. Worked some more on my sociology paper, and took some pictures. I put a few up at http://www.desertcrow.deviantart.com. It started a little cold this morning, and its always really windy, but it warmed up a lot and the sky was as blue as Arizona's this afternoon. Well, I've got a big day tomorrow with the cousins and relatives, so its best I head off to bed shortly.

Nov 25, 2004

Sweet Home, Oklahoma

Got up at ten this morning and packed up for Oklahoma. Ben abandoned me last night, spending the night with his dad before heading off to St. Louis this morning. I gave Suki extra food and water, made sure everything was locked up and Sally drove me to the airport. I stuffed my clothes and a down jacket into a backpack so I didn't have to check anything. Got to the airport and it was business as usual, no long lines anywhere. I was two hours early, so I got a jump start on my sociology paper on my laptop. The flight to Dallas was fine, had some really mediocre chinese food in the airport during my hour layover, and then went on to OKC.
Not as cold as I thought it would be. Grandma said it's been warmer than usual. The drive home was less than twenty minutes, a lot shorter than I remember. Grandpa is doing well. It's good to see family again. Just wish Taylor and mom and dad were here too. I really miss you guys. Hope all your Thanksgivings were good and not spent in airports.

Nov 24, 2004

Hat Trick!

Lets see... After getting seven hours of sleep monday morning I went to my architecture lecture and to sociology where I asked for an extention on my sociology project. She granted it easily, which means now I have to a good job with it for tuesday. I then spent the rest of the day working on various aspects of the architecture project. It's difficult to remember exactly what I did for the rest of the day since I was so tired, but I somehow managed to finish the watercoloring of the plan, four watercolored perspective drawings, and four photo-collages of the site with people. It ended up Jen and Ben just watched me for a few hours watercoloring past midnight. I finished all that work around five AM tuesday morning, and then started working on my process book.

Aside: Process books are small 8.5 x 5.5 booklets of 20-60 pages of stuff you do leading up to the final architecture design. It should include preliminary research, site photographs, what other architects have done relating to the site, and most the sketches and preliminary models you make.

First, I took pictures of my sketchbook pages, then I popped up the contrast and color and made them all square. Then, using the process book template I designed for the last project, I plopped the pictures into place. I was so strapped for time, I only used two formats, with no writing whatsoever, except for whatever I'd written in the sketchbook and photographed. I finished putting all the pictures in the processbook and getting it all set up around 8 AM or so, then I attempted to print it on my color printer I got from the parents. Earlier monday, I'd bought a new tri-color cartrage for thirty-five dollars and installed it.
Two problems arise: First, the printer takes about two minutes to print one page. Second, I have to manually feed each page in since the printer has trouble pulling blank sheets from the feed tray. Third, the printer keeps coming up with errors and stopping halfway along the job.
This puts me in a serious time crunch.

I print out all the black and white pages on the laserjet (thank you, thank you, thank you!) and save the color pages as a pdf file to stick on my usb drive. I load all my drawings up in my big 2'x3' portfolio since they can't be rolled, and drive to Kinko's. They tell me it will be half an hour, which is pretty quick for mornings at Kinko's. I then drive my stuff to the architecture building and run it up to the habitat for humanity office I use as a storage room there.
(on a side note, I'd also just finished coordinating a habitat project for tuesday. I'm going to have to quit my post since I just don't have adequite time to commit).

Then I drive back home and grab a glass of juice before dashing back to Kinko's on bike. They have my pages ready for me. I gave them cardstock to print on, so its slighly less than a dollar per page. Sigh. Money vs time all over again. Well, its still cheaper than the last project where I sank sixty dollars in the process book. I take everything over to alphagraphics and there I organize my processbook. We were supposed to make chapters with this process book, so I just printed blank pages with chapter headings in differet places. For the table of contents, I just wrote 'table of contents' and put the headings on the page where they were located on the heading pages. Then I took a pen and a ruler and drew lines from each one to the other in the order they came in. Desperation is the mother of invention. Alphagraphics charged me five bucks to cut the full pages down to 8.5 by 5.5 and ten to bind them with metal. I was done with everything at 10:25. I had fifteen minutes to spare.

I spent that time gathering my presentation materials and trying to track down our studio instructor who, because of a scheduling conflict, couldn't get a space to present in. He finally got us to put our stuff up in the empty art gallery downstairs. This part, the time just before presentations, got me really pumped up and excited. I believe it was the lack of sleep, the happines of being done, the energy of everyone else running around with thier projects, and the anxiety of the jury presentation. At any rate, once presentations started I calmed down a lot, and nearly passed out. The entire class was having trouble staying awake as people talked about thier projects. In my class of 12, I was in the top five for model building craft, and I'd say number one for my watercolored perspectives. This was a relief as I'd really worried about the craft on my model. I'd ended up rummaging around empty lots for dried desert weeds for plants. Thankfully, and with a bit of ingenuity, I was able to model them all pretty sucesfully, although my jojoba looked like a very convincing agave.

The reviewers were the studio instructor and a colleuge of his from work. They're both pretty young, and way too nice to give a really good critique. Unsurprisngly, they really liked my project. I had one of my friends from studio take notes on what they said (a really good idea since you're nervous and so focused on defending your project and explaining it you have no clue what they said afterwards). Their only real critique was that the landscape was not as developed as it could have been, and I knew it wouldn't be, given that I put most of my time and energy into my building design. I was one of the last ones to present, and I had to alternate sitting and standing to avoid falling asleep in my chair. The other people in the class were the same way, and one actually did keep falling asleep and waking up. And then it was over.

I took my model and stuff back up to the store room and then went home. I ate my leftover pizza voraciously then threw myself into writing my Life of Pi paper. I was finished with lunch at 2, and the paper was due at 4:40. It was a four page paper, double spaced, and I had about a page and a quarter done already. I just sat down and started writing.
Somehow I managed to get all the ideas out and connected, used text from the book, and made a coherant thesis, but my lack of sleep was catching up with me. I think I actually started dreaming while I was typing, and the screen kept coming out of focus. When I printed out the draft, and read it, I realized that instead of writing "athiests and agnostics" I'd typed "criminals and prostitutes," don't ask me why. I'd also substituted "green soup bowl" for "religion". Knowing I was no shape to proof my own work I ran it upstairs and had Amy proof-read it for me. With ten minutes before class, I added her corrections, printed it out and took it to Popular Cultrure and Religion.
Mercifully, the teacher was just collecting papers. I dropped mine off and went back home. At this point I was too tired to sleep, so I kicked back and watched Tomorrow Never Dies with Ben. I made a pork loin roast in the oven and for desert the three of us went to Baskin Robbins, where I had a cone of pralines and cream. After I got home, I slept for more than 12 hours.

Today I dropped Jen off at the airport and came back to begin cleaning. Everytime I have a charette, my room, bathroom, and kitchen become absolutely trashed. So I washed the dishes, cleaned the counters, cleaned my bathroom and swept and mopped the tile floors. Now I need to start working on my sociology project. I'll pack tomorrow morning for Oklahoma.

Nov 22, 2004

T-minus 30 hours...

...until my archticture project is due. I finished the eighth inch model late this afternoon after I woke up and collected some more desert weeds to use as trees and other plants. I'll post some pics of that as soon as I get some more time. I finished watercoloring my plan and section tonight as well, after Ben and I got pizza at Dominos. Papa John's is better, but Dominos is cheaper. And a bit closer by about fifty feet. There are literally fifty pizza places within a mile radius of campus. I want to write a book critiquing them all. I got ham and an order of cinnastix, or whatever they're called. Good stuff. Hungry tonight, even after a snack of Jen's pumpkin pie. What's left to do? In the next thirty hours I need to: make 4 photo collages in photoshop of my site, do 4 watercolored rendered perspective drawings, the project statement, and create a new process book. If I can't beg off a delay in the sociology project in sociology later today (monday), I'll have to do it all on tuesday after my review. And I also need to write a paper on life of Pi too. I'll have about oh, three hours after studio to get that done tuesday. Ok to bed. Having trouble keeping eyes open.

Nov 20, 2004

studio frustrations

My Friday night went like this: 4:00- Picking up sticks for scale ocotillo. 5:00- Lecture by Wines, an autobiographical exploration of deconstructivist architecture. 7:00- brief reception with free reception food. 7:30- Studio. I'm taking a break now because (A) I'm getting really frustrated with the model and (B) the glue needs time to dry. The frustrating part is that the craft is bad. It looks bad and I don't know what I'm doing wrong. Measurements are inexplicably too short when I cut cardboard. I have to frame all these walls using peices of wood 1/64" thick and 1/32" wide. It's really delicate, intricate work and my stubby fingers only serve as a further cause of frustration. I've resorted to using the scissors on my swisss army knife to grab and position the wood once I've got the glue on it. It just feels like none of my materials are cooperating.
I guess the root of my frustration is that once again I have managed to procrastinate everything else. I've done everything up to date architectureally speaking, but I could have started the book essay for Religion a month ago. The sociology paper assignment was released a week ago last wednesday.
I still have so much to do.
My plan for the rest of today is to work in studio till about 3 or so, sleep in till six-sevenish, and then get back to work until its done. I'm not really hungry, and I've gained a bit of a stomach from constant snacking on halloween candy, so I can stand to skip a meal. At least I'm drinking lots of water.
It feels like I've been fighting all semeseter. Well, my 2o minute break is up so its back to studio.

Nov 19, 2004

Hooray for memory problems

Went to studio this morning, and the instructor told me to make my models more intricate. I now must do a lot more actual framing using micro-lumber, which Ace hardware is out of. The wood I need is 6x2 inch studs in real life, or 1/16" by 1/64" in 1/8"=1' scale. It was kind of amusing, the instructor gave us Charette week survival tips. (Charette is the time crunch, when people frantically design and work towards a deadline. Comes from the french slang for the cart that would collect the final blueprints.) Here are a few tips he mentioned:
JOE'S GUIDE TO CHARETTE SURVIVAL
1) Get at a minium of 4 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period.
2) Don't do intricate work when you're really short of sleep, this is the time when you end up slicing fingertips off with X-acto knives.
3) Drink plenty of water. Lack of sleep (combined with diruetic caffeine) will dry you out.
4) Eat every 8 hours.

After class, I drove to a hobby shop a few miles from here. They had the wood I needed, and at a better price than Ace hardware. I'll have to remember them. There's always a huge rush on specific supplies. I need to remember to stock up as soon as I get a materials list.
After I got back, I worked on my interior rendering on Form-Z, remembering to save constantly. This program crashes more than anything I've ever worked with. I finished fine tuning the lights and the objects around nine PM, then it took the computer about half an hour to do one test render at a quality level of 3 (out of 10). I then set the quality to 4 and let it process, and it took about an hour and a half. When it was done, it looked very credible, but then when I tried to save the view, the program crashed, and the rendering solution was lost.
I opened it again, and as it was nearing 11:30, I realized that I was not going to make the midnight deadline at Kinko's. Resolving to make the best of a bad situation, I set the quality level to five to let it process overnight. It would have worked, had the program not frozen up. I went online to the class announcement board hoping for some advice on cutting render time, and I found that the professor had postponed the due date until monday since everyone is having trouble with computer memory. This is good and bad. Good that I can get it perfected for a higher grade in the class, (which I really need) and bad since its more work to do over the weekend. Of all my projects at this time, I have the model about 25% done, the Life of Pi paper in rough outline and a paragraph or two, and the modeling completed for the computer modeling project. The sections, plan, watercolor perspectives, photocollages, and sociology project I have not even started yet.

Just got to remember to get 4 hours of sleep a night.

Nov 18, 2004

Short message tonight, got to get some sleep. Went to bed two-ish last night, got up and went to Papa S.Murf's enthralling lecture at 8:40 AM. In architecture lecture, we got our last test back: I got a 92% so that made me happy. However, I strongly disagree that the statement "kill the moonlight" is more Italian futurist than Dadaist. Ah well. Bought my laptop battery this morning online and got free shipping. Should be here in time for Oklahoma. Took a nap this afternoon for two hours and then we made bicsuits and gravy and bacon for dinner. It was good. Then I worked in studio for seven hours straight. Then I came home and now its 3:22 AM. Time for bed.

Nov 16, 2004

Lacking drive...

A disk drive, that is. Lots of computer stuff today, but first, the brief backstory: my laptop has two batteries, an internal and a swappable bay battery. My internal battery stopped sucking up juice a few days ago, but the system ran fine when it was plugged into the wall. Then today, the bay battery wouldn't charge either. I called up Dell Tech Support, got to a technition in under five minutes, and his english was excellent. We figured out that my internal battery was fried (bad news) and it would cost $150 to replace (worse news) but that the bay battery wasn't getting charged since the internal battery was blocking the charge (good news). So I took out the internal and now the bay battery is fully charged. After class, I drove to the ASU suplus store and picked up a used Dell monitor for five dollars. Dad left me a nice computer, boxed with an unopened keyboard and mouse. I loaded a OS on it and then it told me that the computer had no hard drive. It had memory, but no apparent hard drive. Something to investigate. I'm pretty sure there's one in there, but I'm not sure if we did something to it to erase the data on it. Anyway, I set up a little workstation in the hallway between the bedrooms and it feels like it completed the apartment.
After that, I went grocery shopping, and then on to architecture studio. I worked from 6:15 until 12:15, so a good six hours. I did take about an hour break in there to grab a slice of pizza and a large cherry coke. What makes soda and pizza so good? It's like rediscovering a lost love every semeseter.
While I let the glue dry on my project, I wanded around the building. I discovered a hatch at the top a ladder on the top of a stairwell had been left unlocked, so I cautiously crept onto the roof of the arch building. It was pretty boring, a standard modernist flat roof. So I walked across the bridge, on TOP of the bridge. It was actually very safe, considering the bridge was at least 20' wide, with four foot tall walls around it. I kept to the center, to avoid being seen from below. But no one ever looks up. The roof of the new arch building was much more interesting. There were little 3-walled structures like small huts set up in a grid to let light fall into the studios below. The walled edge was an excellent balcony with a view of University drive below and A mountain in the distance. After about ten minutes of poking around, I let myself back down again.
Now, it's a little after One AM, and Ben is as excited as I've ever seen him. He's like a new puppy vibrating with anticipation and joy. Today Halo 2 is unleashed upon the world. And Ben is unlocking it as I type. He will not sleep tonight.
I, on the other hand, am a student of architecture, and I have no such luxury.

Nov 15, 2004

Camelback and Yann Martel

Saturday I worked in studio for 13 hours straight, interrupted only by an hour for a chicken and rice bowl at Teriyaki Stix. I've got a architectureal model that breaks some rules, but I think my instructor will approve. At one AM, Cassie, Whitney and Kevin dropped by after watching The Incredibles. I was invited, but as I had turned down going ice skating with Jen, and I still had work to do, I had to decline them too. It really gave me pause to think about how much architecture consumes my life. Architecture should be classified as a religion. It's gods are Truth, Form, and Rationality, and its prophets and priests go by the names of Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright, et all. The student of architecture is a priest-in-training, accepting dogmatic prinicples, learnning the distortions of the architectural gods and distortitng it further himself. There are rites, rituals, acts of passage. It hollows the mind and fills it with itself. The accomplished architect is revered by society. The only real question is how far I want to let it dominate my life.
Sunday I slept in and ate bagels while I read the newspaper. Then Jen and I drove to Camelback in the convertable. It was as beautiful a day as I've ever seen it here, it was warm and sunny, the sky was blue with small white clouds, and there was a constant cool wind. We got about 3/4 up the mountain before Jen became weak from hunger. So we went back down and headed back to the apartments. After I got back, Ben and I went to Big 5 sports to look at old rifles. Ben (a history major) has a deep interest in these old guns, german and russian rifles, used in WWII.
Afterwards, I took a long nap. When I woke up, I worked on my interior renderings for formZ, and read Life of Pi. I finished the rest of the book, then went to bed.
Got up this morning, and dropped the philosophy classes I was going to take and instead added a class in urban design. The business accounting class i had tried to get into was full, so I'll have to try that later.

Nov 11, 2004

Out of Time

Yesterday was insane. I slept through my architecture studio lecture, but it was no big loss since all he did was talk about final project requirements, which are available online anyway. Went to archtiecture lecture and sociology where we were handed a new project, due before thanksgiving. Actually, I have quite a quite a list at this point of things that are due before thanksgiving.
Nov 12: Quiz on Radiosity in FormZ comptuer modeling AND an exam in Architecture
Nov 16: Test on Religion and Popular culture text
Nov 19: Photo-realistic interior rendering for computer modeling
Nov 23: Life of Pi paper due (I still have to read it, and then write a five page paper on it) AND
our last architecture project (which includes: 1/8" scale model of site and buildings, 1/8" watercolored plan and section, 3 photo-montages, 3 perspective watercolors, and probably a 1/4" scale model of the buildings)
Nov 24: Sociology reaserch project due based on interviews and feild research at the university.
Nov 25: Fly out to oklahoma and Thanksgiving that the semester is nearly over.

This is insane. I don't know how I'm going to get it all done. I'm going to have to revert back to the nap system of sleeping three hours at a time, twice a day. And tons of lists. And Mountain Dew. I probably won't have a lot of time for this kind of thing either.

Anyway, yesterday I ran some errands, got my new glasses, and picked up spraypaint for my architecture project. Mom picked me up, and then we went to eat at Mosaic. It was overpirced, and our waiter had a definite attitude, but the food was really good. I don't think I've every had better lamb. The bill was enough to feed me for three weeks. After that, I loaded a bunch of stuff from the house, and took it back to the apartment in the Stud-mobile. Got to studio around midnight and worked until 4 AM. Came back and got some sleep before waking again at 9:30 to go back to studio, photograph my model in the sunlight, go back home to print out the pictures, and then back to studio for class. Got a good desk crit, and then I came back here.

My plan of action for the rest of the day: Finish reading my stuff for architecture exam (its all on cities, go figure) look at the online slide collection since he'll be testing for that too, and then take a nap. After nap, I'll go back and re-review the architecture readings and my notes, and then make a plan of action for each of the due items aforementioned. After that, probably more model work. I may try to squeeze a shower in there sometime today. Can't afford to get sick.

Nov 9, 2004

recovery

Had a rushed morning, begining with the fact my alarm didn't go off at 10 AM. My body woke me up at 10:25, and I had made previous arrangements to get the key to the storage room I desperately need at 10:30. So i threw on a pair of jeans, a sweatshirt, and took off. I literally flew to the architecture building (I need to either start wearing a helmet or bike less agressively) dodging traffic and sleepy college students. Made it there too late, must have just missed the guy. Still, I was right on time for Studio.

The studio teacher did desk critiques today, and I was fast enough to sign up second.
He has three types of classes. In whole groups, we pin up or display what we have and he critiques us in front of the group. The problem is it gets really boring really quickly. Especially since you're just sitting there for about 2-3 hours. Small groups work better, generally four to a group. That way you get more of an idea of what everyone else is doing and it gets over a lot more quickly. Last is individual desk crits, where he gives you direct and personal criticsm. Only problem is that he can't see everyone when he does individuals. Anyway, he liked the way I was going, and recommended another architect to investigate. I'm basically working with light washes and how light fills the spaces. Anyway, he recommended that we come to class veterens day. I'm definately going to go. I'll have to hike with Cassie in the afternoon.

Got a lot of reading done for my architecture test this friday. Still about forty pages to go, plus reviewing my notes and re-reviewing the stuff I already read. In Religon and Popular Culture, we reviewed for the test on Jesus In Disneyland. I really wish people didn't take the class just because its an easy Culture credit, or if they did, that they woulnd't make incenderary, stupid, or smart-a**ed remarks. It's one of the things that really irritates me. I thought I left that kind of idiocy in high school.

Kicked back tonight and watched some Samurai Jack on DVD. The individual episodes are so much better than the movie, so I was glad there was one extra on the DVD. Looked at the photographs I took of my model today in sunlight, and made some new sketches for my next iteration of models. That's for tomorrow though. For now, its bed.

sausage jumbalaya and studio fever

Today (technically, yesterday) I got up and went to my architecture lecture where we focused on the buildings of Louis Kahn, probably best known for his Salk Institute in Southern California, and in Sociology, the teacher droned on about the sociology of religion, a subject in which I am taking a semester of classes. In other news, I got my thanksgiving travel arrangements made, which involves leaving thursday and getting back very late monday night. However, it was a really good deal and I would like to maximize my time in Oklahoma. I will miss the aforementioned lectures, but we're not having any tests in them (so far as I know). After class I grabbed a slice of Pizza, and went to Nationwide Vision. After much deliberation, I picked out a black plastic frame with a slighly rounded boxy shape. Five to seven days and I should be finally getting out of these horrid safety glasses. Napped for about three hours, then got to work making Jumbalaya. Took two onions to start with, and added celery, garlic, rice, green pepper, andouille, oregano, thyme, tabasco, cayenne, crushed tomato, chicken broth and shrimp. Took a long time to prep and cook, but it made a lot of food. It was really good, but it needs something like a fresh herb or spice on top. The girls upstairs brought down half of a birthday cake for us, (Amy's boyfriend is coming to town) and so we had some of that for dessert. On to studio.
Got to studio at about 9 PM, worked 8 hours straight to leave at 5:00 AM. It staggers me not only how much time passes and how little work I seem to get done, but also how I barely notice the time at all. What else can one do for 8 hours straight without becoming bored, hungry, or otherwise distracted?
To my credit, I made an excellent study model with material exploration, and included a basic contextual site, all rendered at eighth inch scale. I actually wore out my mp3 player battery from listening to it for so long. After a long time in studio, especially when you;re working alone, you tend to suffer from psychic breaks I call studio fever. It's the result of sleep deprivation, mental fatigue, intense and prolonged focus, and isolation. Symptoms include wild dancing and singing to music, talking to one's self and answering back, multitudes of craft errors, and a general loss of touch with outside reality.
So now here I am at 5:48 AM with a class in five hours. So to bed and sanity.

Nov 7, 2004

the Blog: postmodernist simulacrum

Simulacrum: n (1) an image or representation. (2) An unreal or vauge semblance.

Slept in this morning until about 11 or so, then I made biscuits and gravy. Biscuits from a tube, gravy from a box. At least the apple butter was homemade. Today I need to make a study model for architecture, and I may run down to Big5 with Ben. The model is going to be a bit of a pain, since I need to buy clear plastic for the glass. I also need to make a larger site context. So lots of shopping this morning. Wish I had a car, that way I could get my errands done a bit easier. Tonight is Salsa dancing at Club Rio. Mucho gusto, y muy divertido, pero we missed it last sunday because of Halloween. Hope I can get back into the swing of it quickly.

Architecture is a decision made every day.

Studio is 40% inspiration and 90% perspiration

Medium is the message

I moved the blog again. I deleted the Tumblr account and moved everything to Medium.com, a more writing-centric website. medium.com/@wende...