Dec 21, 2005

Sad News

Early in the morning on the 17th, my Grandfather, James Oliver Perkins, passed away in Oklahoma. I was flying out that evening, and my parents were getting on a transatlantic flight from Moscow when they got the news. After struggling on for years, he couldn't hold out any longer. He had outlasted even the most optimistic doctor's expectations, surviving on will, his sense of humor, outlook, and faith. While I'm sad to lose him, I'm happy he is no longer suffering on his fraction of a lung. He had a lovely funeral service with about 300 people in attendance, which testified to how many people had had touched and befriended in his life. I saw a lot of family whom I'd never seen before, or seen only when I was a few years old.

The service was in Blanchard, near the center of Oklahoma. Grandpa Perkins was interred in Ardmore, near the Texan border. After a brief Interment ceremony, we drove with mom all the way back up to Ponca City, not far from Kansas. Thus, I saw a lot of Oklahoma. During the winter, its a cold, bleak country, with creeping fog in the evenings.
Now we're in Ponca with my Grandmother on my Mother's side. Spent the day shopping for clothes, and had lunch at Enrique's, an inexplicably good mexican restaurant in the tiny airport which serves the town of Ponca, completely surrounded by fields.

Dec 12, 2005

Almost there....

Previously on The Blazing Sun, our intrepid hero stands on the eve of a really nasty history of architecture test...

The final exam for that class was a nightmare. The professer used images from inside the cathedrals, and while I got most of them, I know I mis-identified one for sure. As these questions are 'compare at least four points about the two buildings shown', I don't know how much he will take off. The set up for the test was five image comparisons (each with a page of writing in 8 minutes) and the option for either two shorter essays or one long essay (45 minutes for this portion). I did the one long essay, which had a question which was completely unclear and deliberately tricky. I think an A is out of the question for this test, but a B is more likely. As this is a quarter of my grade, I am glad I have gotten As on my major other tests / papers. My paper on Islamic architecutre also got an A.

We were going to have dinner with Sally and Jonathan that night, but as they had just got thier power back on at 4 pm that afternoon after about a week after thier fuse box fizzled out, they had to postpone it to Sunday night. Saturday night, Jen and I went to a performance of Handel's Messiah by the Phoenix Symphony. We both dressed up, and I wore my suit. There were a lot of little old ladies in horrible red christmas sweaters there that night. Afterwards, we drove around in PV looking at the nicely decorated million+ dollar houses.

Sunday night, Jen and I went over to Sally and Jonathan's for dinner. They gave me my Christmas presents early: A box of legos and House of Leaves , an experimental novel which was highly recommended to me. Dinner was good, and Gabriel and Sara both chatter away.

Today I went in at 10 AM for my exit interview with my studio professor. The last day of studio, we had voted on which projects would go downstairs as representations of the best quality of the class. None of my projects made it, but two other excellent projects did. The number one favorite had three models at different scales showing different parts, as well as a series of a dozen hand rendered perspectives going through the project. It's tough to beat that.
However, at the interview, the professor told me that my projects were highly regarded by the other students, with a cumulative rank of fifth with all the projects we'd done. ( I think I would have scored higher, but I destroyed my really cool box model after it began to fall apart midway through the semeseter). Anyway

He liked the stuff I had done, and said that the floorplan I had designed for the library was the most mature in the class, and that I'd solved the problem very elegently. He really liked the way that even though I had turned whole building sections, the angles never created dead spaces. He recommended that I pick up a few of my favorite architect's monographs and try to deconstruct thier buildings, to read about thier process, in order to understand how the building took form in thier mind. He also recommended S,M,L,XL by Rem Koolhaus (what architect wouldn't want a name like "coolhouse"?) as a classic place to begin.

I looked through the copy we have on reserve here in the library, it looks really cool. I'll have to see if I can't pick up a copy somewhere.

Tomorrow is the last day of finals. I'm turning in my powerpoint and documentation and I'm taking the "exam" in Human Factors. I've got such a strong A in that class, I dont think there's any way I could screw it up.

Sally and Jonathan are going to take me out to dinner saturday before dropping me at the airport. Whew! can't believe I'll be in Oklahoma five days from now.

Still working in the library my evening shifts. Today I mostly reviewed the exam questions for the Human Factors Final. Friday is my last day working here this year. I told my superviser that I would not be available until school started again, so I can spend more time with family and friends during the break.

Dec 7, 2005

Reading Day and Iconoclasts

Today I got up at eight AM and went to school to take pictures of my model in the dynamic early morning light. Later, I repaired my old model and took another series of pictures. I ended up completely exhuasting my battery and taking over 100 shots. As these models are too big to save or do anything with them, the pictures will be my only reminders of them, unfortunately as that may be. Its far better to give them a quick end than to have a slow destruction by time and Suki, who will be absolutely entranced with her new toy.

Also began seriously studying for my history of architecture test. It's a reading day, the day before finals are supposed to begin, so here I am in the library with our textbook going over the chapters and buildings. I'm up to religious structures in the 9th century, and the textbook mentioned the Iconoclastic controversy, a mouthful which caught my curiosity. Apparently, during the 730's when Byzantine was the shining light in the world of the dark ages, there was a huge debate which raged for a century over whether or not religious images (apart from the cross, God, and Jesus) should be worshipped. The Holy Church councils which met reversed their decisions on this several times over this period as the head of the church changed. In the meanwhile, thousands of icons, sculptures, and paintings were destroyed, defaced, or thrown in the ocean. The Eastern Orthodox church accepted the last decision, icons are ok, and began thier split from the church after that, which is why we see so many Ikons in slavic churches. Still not sure how this all relates to the modern Catholic church and thier stance on iconoclasm- but there's still more to read. Tomorrow is another big study day before Morton's test friday.

Dec 6, 2005

last day of school

Today is the last day of school before reading day and finals. I went to a final review in Dr. Morton's history class, then went in for an hour and a half long structures final exam. I'm really thankful I took such good notes. I think I did pretty well. It felt right to me, and hopefully, if I slipped up a number here or there, he'll look at the process. I wasn't overwhelmed and I feel like I got an A on it, or a B minimum. We shall see.

We have to move out of our studios for the winter break as they're going to shuffle the architecture students around to make sure nobody gets the same teacher they had in the last class. This is unfortunate as the other two studio teachers are a lot more strange and strict. So, I spent yesterday afternoon cleaning out my desk area. I think I have about five pounds of basswood, plastic bits, and metal wire. Jen's going to let me store most of it in her desk area as the interior design girls get to stay where they are.

The last thing we have to do in studio is a documentation project. Our studio teachers havn't been keeping track of grades all semester, so this is where you put all your documentation togather of all your projects, all the photos, CAD files, and relevant sketches etc. We're putting it all in a powerpoint presentation. Here is a rough draft of mine I threw togather while working today at the library. Click here to download it. I've never really worked with laying things out in powerpoint before, and I must say that it severely lacks the power of indesign or anything else I've worked with recently.

Dec 3, 2005

the other cost cutters

Below are some of the images I presented at my architecture review thursday afternoon. They are mostly formZ renderings, with a couple of more "cartoony" sketchup images.

Last night, I rewarded myself for a successful studio project by going to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire at the Cine Capri in scottsdale. While it was a good movie, with a lot of great action sequences, it was definately an endurance test. The intensity of the movie was overpowering, and it could have used some quieter scenes for us to catch our breath. The acting has become a lot better, and the scariness factor has way increased since the last film. It really makes me wonder what the next few films are going to be like as the books are even darker than this one. Out of all the movies, I liked the third one best, followed by this one, and then the first and second one.

Today I also went in to have my hair cut with Jen. She was telling me about a hairstylists school nearby where they cut student's hair for $12. This is the same price as cost cutters, so I said I'd come along and get one too, as I was beginning to see the hair on the sides of my head. This place, the Carsten Institute, was quite an experiance. They took the entire top floor of this building and put in about a dozen rows of styling stations, each row with five stations back to back, so about 120 stations in all. There were about the same number of haircutting students, mostly young women and a few young men, all dressed in red tee shirts and jeans. They called up the students who were going to cut our hair and they came up and introduced themselves. I got a shampoo wash first, then I told her what I wanted (longer on top, shorter on the back and sides, and blended all around.) She pulled her instructor over, and he sketched out on her head diagram sheet what to do. It was really interesting, he called the line they cut on the "design line". The whole place had a real studio feel to it, complete with the alt rock music on the speakers in the background. Anyway, my student did a good job. She was pretty nervous, and her hand was a bit unsure with her scissors, but it ended up looking fine. She took awhile, moving cutting only a bit at a time, and pulled her instructor over twice more to make sure she was doing okay, and to ask him what to do about the hair over my ears. This was apparently beyond her skill set, because he carefully got the hair around my ears, following a curved line, and another instructor cleaned up teh back of my neck with the "buzzers." Then there was a final check out with the instructor where he asked me how she did. I said she did fine.
Jen's student had never cut hair of a client before, and had only been in the school for three months. I think this weekend was the first time for a lot of students. Jen's do was also much more complicated than mine, and the instructors did a lot for the student. Overall, it was a great deal, $12 for a shampoo and cut, although I think I'll come a bit later in the semester so the students will have more experiance.

Dec 1, 2005

Razzle Google Dazzled

Success! I went home last night, showered, shaved, and slept for three hours, getting up again at 6:30 AM. I finished my formZ images and dressed up for the review. Black slacks, tailored fit express shirt, my cashmere-wool overcoat, cap a pie. First stop was Kinkos. One person working there, asisting a person trying to mail a package to an unknown village in England. Unknown because the person wasn't sure which village it was exactly. I dropped my flash drive off and headed to school. There, I finished the model and rendered my site plan, using color only for trees and concrete. I biked back to Kinkos and picked up my pictures an hour later. While the first group of students was presenting, I added people with sharpie markers to my formZ interior shots, which was really kind of fun.

We presented five to six in a round , about 20 minutes apiece. Our reviewers were upper division faculty along with a few architects. During our lunch break, I hooked up my laptop to the projector port. No luck. Jen came down from her class, and took me through the steps. All the interior design presentations are in powerpoint, so she's done it many many times. She stayed to watch my presentation. I was really excited to see my laptop screen contents dispayed twelve feet wide. While the rest of the class and reviewers gathered, I had fun with google earth on the big screen, visiting cities and landmarks while people oohed and aahed.

At my presentation, I started with a google earth view of north scottsdale, then zoomed in on my project on the site, rolling down to see the mountains in the distance with the topography, then finally circiling the building and zooming to the entrance. I really wowed the jurors. From there I started off by talking a bit fast, but made myself slow down and talk more slowly. The people really liked my project. They commented that my sections were a little thin (they were really bad, just the bare building structure without furnature, people, trees, or a lineweight gradient, but it really only a scratch. They liked all my interior shots in formZ, and I think I just had so much other stuff, they could overlook the sections.

The main criticism was that I wasn't addressing the issues beyond the clients needs, that I was working from the data sheet requirements and not thinking about the role the library needs to play or do in the new wireless information era. Architecture should be about designing for what the client should aspire to, according to one reviewer. Overall, it was the most positive review I'd heard all day. Now its time to pack up and head home, pay bills, do laundy, and sleep.

still alive

It's 1:07 AM here on the thursday our projects are due. I've just finished my model. It looks pretty good, although I may have overdone it a bit with the trees. The small group of people working this morning and I went out for breakfast to go at the italian restaurant across the street. Had some really mediocre buscuits and gravy. Makes me miss Oklahoma. My mentor came in at 4 today to see my project. He liked it, and he gave me a lot of great advice about what to say in the presentation as well as HOW to present. It's almost disheartening how much of what architects do is selling to clients. I was reminded to speak slowly and take pauses to make sure the reviewers are following me, to act friendly, and more than anything else, CONFIDENT in myself and my project. They're going to look for someone different from the rest of the crowd which shuffles up and mumbles. This mentor is a great match for me, as I need all the help I can get with working on presentation skills. I'm a fairly good presenter, probably a bit above average, but that's really not saying much.
My mentor is pretty cool, he's an older gentleman who lives up in McDowell Mtn ranch. Despite his 40 years of experiance, he's still really excited and enthusiastic about architecture and designing. He poked a little fun at Bruder, and is completely underwhelmed by the use of rusted steel.
I'll probably go up later today and mumble and move too much, and make too many gestures, but I'll work really hard at talking more slowly, and more loudly.

Status report:
Site plan- still need to marker in trees- probably after I get some rest.
Floor Plan- Done!
Interior perspectives- just need to finish the children's room in FormZ and maybe add some people using the space before I get them printed out at Kinkos.
Exterior perspectives-Done!
Google Earth Flyaround- Done!
Model- Almost done! just need to add short entry walk from the parking lot to the area under the shade canopy. The 'trees' I'm using are dried baby's breath and they reek. I've never really understood what "cloying" meant before picking them up at Michael's.

Jen spent some time with me in studio making little trees out of the baby's breath and "planting" them in my model.

I've been here in this building almost consistantly since sunday morning. I've not even been home since monday morning. I should be able to get some more sleep today as I'm getting closer. I need to go by Kinko's anyway. A shower and a shave will be most welcome.

Back to work. Almost done.

Nov 30, 2005

status report

1.5 hours of sleep last night. Halfway done with my roof. Sections done, and plan done but needs to be printed. FormZ model mostly done, so I can just take those sections.

Nov 28, 2005

welcome to the crunch

Jonathan had donated the use 0f his moutain bike- with a kevlar bike lock, so I no longer need to to rollerblade to school. My project is due thursday. I have my model about halfway done. My drawings are on autocad, but I still need to update, print, and watercolor the site plan. I've got some very nice interior shots and some really nice exterior shots with sketchup and form Z. It's going to be a very long week.

It got cold here. Saturday it was sunny and 70 degrees. Monday, I was shocked to find it 20 degrees cooler. I've started wearing my wool coat, and broke out my feather comforter. Not that I'll be using it much this week.

I picked Jen up at the airport late sunday night. They're really changing Sky Harbor, I can hardly recognize it anymore. Mixed feelings about it- I get nostalgic about the old look coming back and departing on all our early travels. Jen also brought me back some chocolate covered expresso beans! Ok back to work. I've had my laptop in studio for the past week almost. Wireless means I get all me emails, although I cant send any.

Nov 27, 2005

Not the best day I've ever had

Yesterday will not make the top 10 best days I've had this semester. I covered a shift of a coworker Saturday from noon-5, and it just felt like I'd lost the entire day. I got some good work done, and by the end of the night I'd finished a model in sketchup complete with cars, people, stop signs, and plants and succussfully exported it to google earth so I can use it in my presentation. However, I was only able to make one wall of my model. These things take so much time and energy. What's worse is that I ended up building my model in not one, not two, but three CAD programs, first autocad from the alst project, then roughly in sketchup, then completely from scratch in formZ becasue I needed the better detail and interior shots, then after I found I could export to google earth, back to finish the rough model in sketchup. My computer has also been freezing up every time I launch google earth and acting wierd when I use openGL functions in my cad programs. Updating the driver from ATI didn't help, so I had to hunt around until I figured out what the problem was: Dell requests special drivers for all the technology they install at thier facotory, so if you have an ATI card which was installed for you by dell, none of the ati updates work, you have to go back to Dell to get thier drivers. SO I figured that out, and downloaded the driver, and that solved all my graphics problems. So that was good, although it was unbeleivably frustrating. I decided to call it a night a little after 11 as I wasn't making any progress, and I feel terrible with anything less than seven hours of sleep. My bike was gone. In the spot it occupied, I found my cable bike lock, neatly cut. I walked home and watched some monty python before going to bed. I should have used my u-bar lock. The bike was only $60 used, but it was the best bike I'd ever had. I guess I have something new to add to my christmas list.

Nov 25, 2005

Thanful for You

I really have so much to be thankful for, I truly am blessed. I'm thankful for my family in Moscow, who keep sending me money, and supporting me in everything I do. I'm thankful for all my grandparents, that I have been able to know them so well for so long, and that they were willing and happy to have flown me out to spend thanksgiving with them. I'm thankful for Jen, who also offered to have me over for thanksgiving, and for pushing me to be even better. I'm thankful for Sally and Jonathan, who not only invited me to thier family reunion/thanksgiving, but also got mom's mallow pie recipie and made it just for me. I'm thankful for all of everyone's love.
I'm thankful for all the opportinities I've had, and thankful that I've been able to capitalize on so many of them. I'm thankful that I live in a place where on thanksgiving, it was a sunny 70 degrees. I'm thankful for Suki for her undying adoration.

Thanksgiving day, I stopped by the local liquour store and picked up an Austrailian Merlot before heading over to Sally's. Both of Sally's brothers and her father were there. This was a special occasion, as they hadn't all been togather under one roof for a long time. Tons of food; Jonathan carved up the turkey with his new electric knife, there was sweet potato pie, mashed potatos, fresh rolls, deviled eggs, green beans, and cranberry sauce. For dessert, there was the option of cherry, blueberry, or pumpkin pie, and banana bread. Lots of wine too, my reserve merlot turned out great with the turkey.

Well, back to work. I finished my base for the final model wednesday night, and today I need to get started on the "steel" frame construction before I start adding the walls. Project due in six days!!!

Nov 22, 2005

culture jamming

I was browsing an online architecture and desgin journal, and they had a snippet about this site, the Coca-Cola World Chill Map. This allows visitors to select thier current mood: either "Freakin", "Buggin", "Uptight", "Calm", or "Chill", then zoom in to where they are to put a peg in with the color of thier mood. This theoretically gives us a global picture of who's chillin'. California and the East Coast, unsurprisingly, are all chillin' and so is most of the UK. Someone with a sense of humor has realized the litebrite potential and has created a giant happy face in the middle of Siberia. The website also offers a screensaver so you can get a feel for how chill the world is in realtime. Personally, I think this is just ridiculous and hilarious, especially as the website thinks that this information is on par with global stock indicies. Coca Cola is trying way too hard. However, this does provide an interesting concept. Instead of "how are you feeling today?", what if the US government did "how safe do you feel today?" or "how many of you are planning on voting?" there's huge potential as a polling device. However, the usual problems, like the giant happy face in siberia, need to be rectified.

I finished my paper last night and turned it in this morning. It's a pretty good paper. Last night, there were still people coming into the library to check out the articles and books that they needed to compare. Today in architecture history after we turned our papers in we split into ten groups. The scenario was that we were a religious sect on a mediterranian island, and we needed a religious structure to serve as our model. Five religious buildings were presented: Byzantine, Islamic, Gothic, Romanesuqe, and one other. One group would act for each building and one group against. My group got the Islamic building, the Dome of the Rock. As I was the only one in the group who had covered Islam in the paper we had just turned in, it fell to me to be the spokesman for the group. So we talked about its strenghts and what I should say, and finally, I had to get up in front of the 150 students and talk. It's an intimidating experiance, and without my notes I would have been lost. Even though it was only two minutes or so of talking, its still a little unsettling. It helps to think of myself as a different person, as Brother Alexander, talking to the Fellows. I think I did a good job. I was complimented a few times throughout the day.

On a sadder note, Jen left for home today. She'll be gone until Sunday night. It's good that she can go home and spend time with her family; even if I didn't have so much work to get done, its 24 hours of travel just to get to my family's apartment in Moscow!

Nov 21, 2005

Making my mark on Google Earth

Today I was looking around on google earth on my laptop, and I remembered seeing someone's 3d model of a mountain in there. It was very basic, just two blocks stacked on top of one another, but the significance was that it was someone's model. I wondered if I could also do this. Then I discovered something really cool. Synergsticool. The developers of two programs I've been raving about, Google Earth and Sketchup, have been talking and created a free plugin. Basically it lets you import google earth topographical maps and arial images into sketchup, then you can build your model on them, and then plug that BACK in to google earth as an overlay. So today I stuck a basic model of my library on the site.

You can see it too (if you have Google Earth installed). Just click here to download the overlay. Save the file, and then you can go into google earth, and go file: open to find the file again. This is just too cool. I'm going to build a better model and then use this in my final presentation.

I finished writing my paper last night and Jen and I swapped to critique and edit each other's paper. I need to finish one last revision tonight and I'm good to print. Also need to go grocery shopping. I'm down to a slice of pizza and spagetti and chili ingreediants.

Nov 18, 2005

Christmas List

My family and friends have been more than generous to me, and so there's nothing really missing that I desperately need.

The one big ticket item I would really like is an air filter and purifier for the apartment to cut down on the cat hair and odors. Ben, who has slight allergies to cats, would appreciate it even more.

For some reason my mp3 player is acting funky and won't read the SDcard anymore. I'm not sure if its the card or the player. At any rate, I've been eyeing the much lighter and smaller ipod shuffle, which you can stick on a lanyard.

A subscription to Conde Nast Traveller would be much appreciated. I picked up a copy a while back and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it and reminded me of travel.

the DVD of the Blues Brothers (the original, not Blues Brothers 2000)

Heavy Words Lightly Thrown by Chris Roberts

Desert Works by Rick Joy

The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Cambell

The Gashleycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey

As always, home baked goods are very welcome gifts.

Nov 15, 2005

Wall scones and race considerations in kitchen design

This morning I picked up my new glasses. A few people commented on them that they liked them. They look pretty good on, although maybe a little large. We got our tests back from the second exam. I got a 91%, so I'm in pretty good shape for this final paper and the final exam. In finding purpose we talked about interviewing and resumes. He gave us advice as what the most important places on the page were, to de-emphasize dates, and to remember that the sole job of a resume is to get you an interview. We also talked a bit about interview questions and what to expect from behavioral interiviews, where the companies try to find out more about your personality type.

In my human factors class, the teacher didn't even show up for the student presentations.

Instead, he had his student aide set up the computer stuff and a tape recorder. The powerpoint presentations are mediocre, but there are little bits which make it worth watching.

One presentation, discussing lighting, talked about how dramatic uplighting can be created through the use of wall scones. And he said "scones" too.
One presenter had no idea what he was talking about when presenting a point about how flourescent lighting worked.
Another group mentioned race as a factor in kitchen desgin. I suppose if you are a Pueblo, then a built-in corn grinder might be desired, or adding a tandoori oven to an Indian kitchen, but these are cultural factors, not racial. If you have any ideas, please let me know.

Nov 14, 2005

CSI: Tempe, and Alec The Welding Wonder

This weekend it was amazingly difficult to stay focused and motivated to get work done. Maybe it was the goregous weather, maybe it was the fact that I have things to do that don't really have defined dates or times, who knows. I went over to Molly's house to work on our human factors project on generation attitudes towards automatic and manual systems. It took us three hours to put togather fifteen pages of material we'd already researched. We knew what we had to do, but it was a severe effort to make my mouth say the words I needed to say, and like thinking through a brick wall. I gave up and took a nap when I got home. Later Sunday evening, I went to Jen's condo and I worked there on my computer while Jen did her marker renderings for her project.

About midnight, Jen's car alarm went off. She was parked right in front of her condo, so we ran outside. Her passenger side window was completely shattered in. A neighbor who had been smoking on the patio came over. He said he saw two guys walk over and then he heard the alarm go off. The two men jumped in a car "which was pretty much identical to hers" and took off. The only thing that had been taken was a CD folder clipped to the visor, and the cds were mostly burned.

Jen called the police and they sent two cars out. The talked to Jen and the neighbor, and dusted her car for fingerprints. The only ones they could find were Jen's on the back trunk. The cop was really surprised by how clean it was. Apparently the dodge stratuses are the hot car to steal. My minivan, parked right across the street, was apparently cool enought to bother. The police told her to get a club for her car. Its good advice, as she always parks on the street. I spent a good half an hour cleaning the granulated safety glass out of the front seat. Anyway, she drove her car over to my apartment and we covered with a car cover. In the morning I drove her back to her car. The repair people are coming today to fix the car at her place, so that's pretty good.

Today, I got a quick introduction to MIG welding. MIG stands for metal inert gas. Basically it provides a copper wire as the diode, and it blows inert gasses to protect the weld from oxygen. The shop guy demonstrated, and we took turns making welds. We were given a full safety briefing and we all got welding masks. My first weld was too far away and too fast. You have to get 1/32" close to the surface for an ideal weld. To maintain this kind of distance, you have to use one hand as a support, resting on the surface. We used thick leather gloves. My second weld was much better, working closer to the surface. What's really interesting is that you really weld by sound. By listening to the sound of the weld, you know how close you are to the surface. What you want is a nice buzz. Anyway, that was a little scary at first, but fun. I need to go down and practice some more before I start making models out of metal.

Nov 12, 2005

An Infadel in Dar al-Harb

The architectural history class I'm taking is taught by a professor Morton, a new teacher this semseter I've mentioned a few times. Here is his asu credentials page. I've never seen a teacher, especially a teacher of architectural history, galvenize students like this guy. We attend his lectures. We study for his exams. His exams are the most physcally demanding, in terms of writing, that I've taken in college. And he grades really really hard. What's really captivating about the course is that he is incredibly knowlegeable and enthusiastic about what he's talking about (which is, I suppose, the difference between a professor of architecture and an architectural historian). He gets so excited sometimes he can hardly contain himself. I've never seen someone use such gesturing in discussing something so old. He gets dewy-eyed at the discussion of the fall of Rome.

Anyway, I mention him because we have another paper to write for him, and unlike all of our other classes people are actually doing research far in advance and working hard on this project, me included. We had a choice of four topics, and I, knowing nothing about Islamic architecture, choose that paper.

The paper is actually a comparison and analysis of two chapters on Islamic architecture in two different books. We have to decide which one is better, and why, and moreover, form a thesis on some salient point or theme shared bythe chapters and discuss that as well. This means I had to check out six books on Islamic architecture to be able to better evaluate the exploratory chapters. In my readings, the history of Islam is also discussed, as it forms an integral part of the architecture. How would one be able to understand a gothic cathedral without knowlege of Christianity?

It's a facinating and ferice history on an incredible timetable. In 622 AD, Mohammad (the man who started the whole thing) was forced to flee Mecca for trying to propagate his new religion. In 661, less than 40 years later, the armies of Islam had taken the entire middle east. By 711, they were halted outside of France, having taken almost all Spain and north Africa.

A religion was founded, converted millions, and unified the nomadic warring tribes and the eastern city-dwellers. The armies of not one but two major global powers were beaten. Constantinople, the last breath of ancient Rome, was taken. Europe was forced away the Mediterranian, and moved north where its new centers flourished. All this was done within 100 years. How?

Mohammad was a clever man. In Medina, he began a small community based on a constitution (undoutbly derived from the Koran) which was revolutionary for the time and location. He preached in the courtyard of his house. As his religion spread, he adopted older religious customs such as the Ka'ba (allegedly built by Adam and later by Abraham) and the pilgrimage to Mecca. He appealed to the Jews who ran the city by making his adherants pray to Jerusalem (another site holy to many religions) in the early years. After he died without naming a sucessor, his adherants split into two factions: one which favored a near relative, and one which favored Mohammad's aide-de-camp. These became the sunni and shiite. They are the only division within Islam.

One reason why Islam stayed so strong was probaby a result of that strict unity. In fact, Islam means submission (to allah). One submits in every way, praying five times a day, fighting holy wars, making the religiosity near total in everyday life. Theres simply no room for arguing over how one should pray, whether or not saints should be recognized, or deciding who should be in the clergy. There is no religious heirarchy in Islam.

Conversion became the major focus. How major? They divided the world into two parts: dar al-Islam (the seat of Islam) and dar al-Harb (the seat of War).

Anyway, the middle east was a major nexus of the global trade route, the Byzantine and Sassarian officials had a booming buisiness, and the nomadic middle eastern tribes were kept in check by fighting each other all the time. Islam unified the tribes under a common banner. The residents of the desert outpost towns were more than happy to welcome the conquering armies as 1) they were sick of the corruption of the local Byzantine rulers and 2) they were happy to see historical kinship take power from the Contstantinople-based Byzantines.

The occupational strategey was good: As the Arabs had no political or governing structure for urban cities, they left all the Christian government officials in place. In terms of religion, you could either convert or pay a tax. Given that Islam holds the merchant as the highest social ideal, many powerful people converted.

That's another really interesting comparison between the two religions. While Christ said that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get into heaven, Mohammad commented that a coin is worth more when it's earned by a merchant.

Anyway, enough of history for tonight. Chase (the guy I hiked through Europe with) has finally broken down and started a blog documenting his adventure sports start-up in Boulder, CO. His blog is here.

Mr. Woodland Creature

Yesterday morning I called the Nationwide Vision by my apartment and they said they could take me immediately. I went in and looked at frames while I waited for them to finish with a 92 year old man. I had them give me a full eye check-up including pupil dialation. The news is good: my eyes look fine, and my vision has finally stabilized. There's almost no change from my last perscription. One more good thing about being 21 is that you stop physically changing. Anyway, I took about half an hour looking at frames. In the end, I narrowed down my choices between a thick tortoushell frame with kind of copper side peices and a frameless one similiar to a pair of glasses I'd had before. Jen really liked my thick framed black glasses, and disliked the frameless, and the saleswoman also liked the thicker frames much better. She said that the frameless just dissapeared. So I went with the thicker frames.

Following mom's adage, I asked about discounts. Since I had a cigna card they knocked off $50. Very nice. I went ahead and got the polycarbonate scratch resistant coating and since it was only 9 dollars more, got a 1 year warrenty against BREAKAGE. The lenses, exam, frames, coatings, etc came out to $240. Ouch. I'd forgotten how expensive glasses are.

The other problem is that my eyes stayed dialated like a woodland creature's until the early evening. I had a really hard time biking home since it was so bright outside, even though I had sunglasses. Since my lenses were also paralyzed I couldn't focus close, so I couldn't read or work on the computer. This pretty much killed my day. I went into studio late in the afternoon, wearing a huge brimmed hat and sunglasses. The one positive is that I think I've got my roof structure figured out for my project.

Nov 10, 2005

Busy week

Let's see: monday I struggled with figuring roofing options for my library project in architecture studio. Tuesday in our human factors class, our teacher asked us to write reviews of the class. The evalutations we write at the end of the semeseter actually get back to the teachers for a year. Normally, people hurry through evaluations, and almost nobody writes anything in the comments section. Now that we had his undivided attention, nearly everyone in the class wrote half a page of scathing comments. That is really saying something.

Wednesday morning I woke up at 6:3o and drove into Phoenix to meet with my mentor Jeremy Jones at DWL architects. I wasn't impressed with the office exterior, as it was built back in the 1960's, but the inside was very modern. I got the office tour, took a look around. DWL is a firm of about 30 architects, so it is pretty large by industry standards. My mentor, Jeremy Jones, is the head of design there. Historically, DWL has done a lot of arizona infrastructure, college, library, hospital projects, but Mr. Jones was brought on board a few years ago to refocus the company on adding interest and more modern design.

I sat in on a design charette with about six or seven other architects. DWL is responsible for redeveloping a large tract of land adjoining ASU (can't tell where) and I saw a presentation on site considerations, limitations, square footages, programing requirements etc. Then we got out our trace paper and pens and started sketching possible site layouts. After about 45 minutes, we compared designs and discussed them. Afterwards, in Mr. Jones office, he told me that I spoke way to rapidly, and that when explaining projects, I need to slow. my. speech. down. which. adds. emphasis. and. conveys. confidence. He also said that one of the strongest skills architects need is negotiation. He's going to help me develop it.

I drove back home and went to ANOTHER meeting, this time with the honors college along with the other honors students in the college of design. Although I havn't taken an honors course in three semesters, I promised to attend the meeting. I'm really glad I haven't wasted my time with extra honors work. There were only three other students in upper division in the honors college. They talked about how honors work just added weight to thier workload, and not richness, and how the honors thesis is a living nightmare with no architecture faculty support.

Today I was lucky to have two classes cancelled. I took my test in human factors. I feel pretty good about it, a B+, minimum.

One really amazing thing I've found online is that google is offering its Google Earth product free. This is a really cool little program which connects to google's mapping servers. It's hard to describe. Imagine an arial photo. Make it high resolution to be able to pick out individual people and make it zoomable. Add topographical data and a tilt feature to show the landscape in 3d with the map overlaid on top. Add a layer of Yellow Pages, a world atlas, and a road map. Make it searchable for a certain coffee shop to a certain city.

Now imagine it covers the entire world. That's essentially google earth. What's really cool is you can save location marks and 'fly' between them. The server runs fast enough that it looks like you're falling straight down at very high speed. There's also an online community layer you can turn on which shows higher res images, like the burj al-dubai, that mega hotel off of dubai, or military buffs point out locations of certain planes or weapons on military bases.

So far I've logged every place I've slept in europe and flying between them its like doing my tour again. It's really surprising how small the world really is. So anyway, I highly recommend it. Go see the pyramids and the grand canyon. And my apartment. Below, this the site our library project is on. Those are the mcdowells in the distance, and taylor's middle school is at below right off of Thompson Peak Pkwy.

Nov 7, 2005

Weekend summary

Friday I took the van in to the Honda care place to get the tires rotated and aligned. Unfortunately, this didn't solve the slight pull problem. With the rotation, now the van pulls in the opposite direction. The guy I talked to said it was a matter of wear on the front tire treads. Anyway, it took longer than expected, so I got halfway throuhg the book on emotional design we're supposed to have read for a quiz this thursday.

That class, human factors in design, is a huge waste of time. At this point, the teacher has become so self-depeciating that he's bitter, and we're all falling asleep in class. He's not even coming up with his own material anymore, just outlining chapters in the book on powerpoint. I wouldn't even come to class if not for the fact that he passes around an attendance sheet.

Friday night, we went to first fridays in downtown phoenix and wandered around for awhile. It's become a massive event, such to the extent that land and housing prices are rising which is threatening the poorer artists in the artists community. We met with a bunch of people from Molly and Jen's studio and decided to go camping.

Saturday morning, I threw all my camping essentials in the car and went to Molly's house. I was hte only one to bring a water purifyer, camp stove, sleeping pad etc. I actually let loaned out a sleeping bag and mom and dad's massive tent. We moved stuff around in the different cars. With a bunch of college poeple our departure time of ten AM was moved to noon. After stopping at the new In-n-out burger near campus, the twelve of us took four cars out to the campsite near Camp Verde. The last three miles were on a dirt road, which the audi convertable and the VW bug took very slowly. We camped beside a little watering hole with a very cold creek running through it. It was pretty, as the leaves were beginning to turn in the fall colors.

It was a fun trip, we got a fire going, roasted hot dogs and made smores. My cell phone fell out of my pocket while I was gathering firewood that night, and it took me three hours to find it again the following morning. Unfortantely, my eyeglasses weren't that lucky. One of the arms got bent down. As I slowly straightened it, it snapped off. I'd bent the arm down once before, in europe, when I accidently stepped on it, and so the metal was too brittle to be re-adjusted a second time. Time to start looking for new classes. Until then its the one-armed glasses look.

Got back sunday afternoon and I spent the rest of the day reading history of architecture notes and more Emotional Design.

Nov 2, 2005

Recovery day

Today it was my pleasure to sleep in past noon. I'm really glad our studio starts at 1:15. Today all I did was go in and watch other people present thier projects. This round of projects were really good. I was really impressed. It's really a driving force for me to see the quality of work other people are doing. Sometimes I feel like I've reached a plataeu, that my level of design has reached a certain stagnant point. Maybe it was just this project, or the half-way method I designed it. I started working from the teachers suggestion that we build it up from the certain moments we wanted within the space, but when I saw it led me to a design I disliked, I abandoned that approach and went back to working down from an overall concept about the space. This sort of compromise I think limited the quality of my design. Anyway, we have three weeks to improve it.
I need to read "House of Leaves" its sounds like a facinating book, and its been recommended to me twice.

Oct 31, 2005


Sunday I came back to studio after sleeping for four hours. I worked there until 3 AM monday morning and biked back home where I took a shower and fell asleep. I got up again at 7 AM (its surprisingly cold in the mornings, I forget how cold it is when I usually get up at around 9), and went back to studio to do a building section on AutoCAD. I did that, printed it in our handy plotter, and sketched in people, bookshelves, plants, etc. Then I headed BACK home again to do some quick sketches to render in photoshop. These turned out pretty cool. I sketched a quick perspective in pen in my notebook, took a picture with my digital camera, then took it into photoshop. There I took the color out, added layers of materials and colors, and added people and furnature. I'll post a few pictures when I get home. I also printed out some shadow studies, and views of the mountains from the library.

I got back to class a little past 1 pm. People were running around finishing stuff up. The way the reviews were arranged, there were two different reviews going on at once in different rooms. They divided the three studios into six sections. Each section got half of the studio time, separated by a short break, so that monday, there were four sections reviewed, two per room. The other two sections will go wednesday. Anyway, our class was mostly in the second half of presentations, so the first two hours or so we sat in on reviews, added finishing touches, and looked at the different projects (I added a compass point to all my drawings at this time).

After the break, ten people from our class set up for our review. I called in sick because I knew that after averaging four hours of sleep a night for the past few nights, I was in no shape to work. It was a challenge staying awake in the reviews. I pinned alll my stuff up and I must say I was surprised by the quantity of material I had. My presentation materials:

1/8" scale model on a site with topography
1/8" scale floor plan
1/16" scale site plan with landscaping/parking ideas
two 1/4" scale sections taken throught the building
a large scale topo map with lines of sight extending to the mountain peaks
interior and exterior perspectives
and my shadow diagrams

During the process work leading up to the reviews, I would go around to the other studios and admire really sexy and futuristic models. Thier forms were really cool and interesting, and it made me feel stupid and inadequate as a designer. Thier classes were worked a lot harder than ours, and so they had a larger body of material to draw from. However, we both invested the same amount of time, and looking at thier floor plans, I could only conclude that the functionality of the building was not up to what our class had done with it.

Our professor puts extremely heavy emphasis on simplicity, and our studio's models tended to be much less complicated and much more boxy, simple forms. We were encouraged to use more simple materials like chipboard and cardboard, and avoid what our professor called "the basswood fashion parade." Basswood models, as a rule, look a lot more ritzy than cardboard or chipboard. He must have been on to something.

The other two studios were ripped to shreds at thier reviews. Everyone looked annoyed and upset. Apparently, the reviewers didn't like what they were seeing. One review I sat in on, the guy had a bunch of curvaceous linked circles. He said that the form in plan was in the shape of a cactus and we all collectively slapped our heads. Our review went swimmingly. There were a few issues, but on the whole it went a lot better for us. Our reviewers consisted of a guy from Leo Daly who dressed like Phillip Johnson with oversized round tortisshell glasses, a facutly professor, Max Underwood, and our studio professor. They liked my design, and how I laid the library out. The only problems were very minor- some American Disabilities Act problems with a door, a bathroom stall facing the entry door, and rainwater issues with my flat roof.

Anyway, it is good to be done and to have everything turn out all right. I went home and slept for a few hours before waking up and finishing my autobiography for my Finding Purpose class.
Its been a long day today. I'm still pretty tired. Everyone here is. Our teachers cant understand why we're so lethargic today but at least they let us out early. Now I'm just working in the library. Tonight, I'm going to head home and get twelve hours of sleep.

Oct 30, 2005

Paying dues

Last night got to bed at 1 AM. This morning got up at seven and went in to studio. Coffee and waffles at a little place I sumbled on nearby, pretty good. Still working at 12: 30 AM. I'll fit my four hour minimum sleep in at 2 I think, or when I get really tired. Jen brought me some cookies she made on her way to a haloween party. I really hate that this project is now. Halloween is my second favorite holiday. Anyway, more work. Still have a day to finish everything. This is the tradeoff for fun classes and few textbooks. Got to pay dues now. Just wis i wasn't so tired of this project. I hate the feeling of not being able to do anything but work. At least it will be over monday and I can recouperate.

Oct 25, 2005

reading is only worth 10%

Worked in studio until 3 last night. Got up at 9 to meet my studio professor this morning. I always seem to get shafted when it comes to desk crits. You'd think he'd be able to talk to 15 poeple in the five hours we have studio. Ah well. He liked the project, although he thought the roof was too low, for structural and aesthetic reasons. The layout works, landscaping is coming togather, just need to do it. I finished drawing the floorplan in autocad and printed it out with the furnature inside. I'm still going to draft it by hand though. Autocad is great for accuracy, but terriblely difficult and cumbersome to use. The printed lines don't have much in the way of true linewieghts either. There's really nothing with quite the appeal of a hand drawing. At least I've become faster at them. I should be able to knock out the drawing tonight, before three AM.

Then I get to start on the model. Actually, then I need to get back to studying for my history of archtiecture test which is this thursday. I'm not going to memorize the dates, because the percentage of points I lose for not knowing the dates is not worth the amount of time it takes for me to memorize them. I'm just not good at rote memorization.

In structures we learned the last new thing: bending moments and deflection in beams. Now, with our tables and equations, we can calculate how much any beam will sag in the center, or how much a cantilever will bend, and combining that with code minimums, reverse the equations to find the depth of beam and type of beam one needs. The rest of the semester will be problem solving and applications to drill this stuff into us.

In human factors we talked about affirmations. It reminded me of mom, with her affirmations. What she may not have realized though, is that reading it out loud only effects a 10% retention rate/effectiveness (according to my teacher, although he also took What the Bleep do we Know? way too seriously). However, I do admit I'd agree with him that in order to be really effective, one must visualize yourself DOING the affirmation, which brings it up to 55%.
There were also a set of guidelines for tenses, action words, and examples he showed us.

I was notified of my mentor today: the head of design for DWL Architects ( The firm is local and dates back from the 1950's. They did a lot of phoenix infrastructure work, from sky harbor airport, to the two biggest libraries on campus. In fact, my brother Taylor was born in one of their hospitals, Good Samaritian. I'm really looking forward to corresponding and meeting with him. So that was good news.

I also pre-registered for classes in the spring. I can't beleive we're at midterms already. It's insane. I just got back from Europe. I signed up for three manitory classes for the major, all of them extentions of the classes I'm taking now with the same professors. I also signed up for photography (although I'll need to find a decent used camera somewhere) and latin american design. The photography class will help me develop compositional design and appreciate lighting better, and the latin american design class will bring me three credit hours away from a minor in design. That class is also taught by a very highly regarded and experianced teacher.

Oct 24, 2005

time gets crunchy

Had a busy weekend. Saturday afternoon, I took a break and went to the desert botanical garden with Jen for thier Pumpkin Festival. It was so packed, we had to park in Papago park and hike for about fifteen minutes. While we didn;t see much in the way of pumpkins, there were country folk singers, and we walked through an enclousure packed with monarch butterflies. We decided to pass on the hayride in the back of the truck.

Worked past midnight saturday night, sunday night, and will definately tonight. Can't stay up too late though, since I dont have any down time during the day. Test tomorrow in human factors. The last one was screamingly easy, and I managed to keep abreast of the readings. His lecture material is all based on the readings anyway.

This morning Jen took me to an exotic wood shop, where I found beautiful peices of african hardwood, rosewood, ebony, teak, maple, oak, lacewood etc. It made me wish I could carve. Jen needed to pick up some oak plywood. This plywood isn't the stuff you get at Home Depot. This plywood is made with multiple veneers, and is used in cabinet making. Her class project is to make conceptual "frames for a dream" for kids with cancer. Her child's dream was "to not be sick anymore." Its impossible to discuss the projects without her begining to tear up.

Anyway. Quiz tomorrow, Exam thursday, project due monday. Yow.

Oct 21, 2005

3d model animation

I put this together in less than three hours from scratch. I did this one to look at how the shadows will look on my building when its in the site. SketchUp has a feature where you select your city, then you can adjust the time of day and the date to get accurate shadow fall. I did another one with color that looks at sections too, but not going to upload it today. To look at my animation, you can click on the link and either click OPEN or SAVE TO DISK. Enjoy!

Oct 18, 2005

Black Hole

We're entering the midterm crunch. This bears striking similarity to the approach to a black hole in space. As one approaches the event horizon, time becomes distorted. However time moves more slowly as one approaches a black hole and the opposite is true of an academic event horizon. In a black hole approach, the gravity differences between your head and feet stretch you out in an effect astrophysicists call "spagettification." Projects, papers, and schoolwork, combined with time for sleep and eating, also cause a "spagettification" of the body. At the moment of greatest proximity to the events, the laws of physics break down. Sleep is no longer even necessary, but in fact, makes one tired. Copy centers pop in and out of existance in the Rymann-curved quantum surface. Beyond the black hole and academic event horizon, there is only darkness. At least twelve to sixteen hours of it to catch up. No light escapes into my bedroom.

I met with my architecture teacher this morning before class and we talked a bit. He's adamantly against using form as the main departure point for this project. He's trying to teach us how to extrapolate an entire project from a few select moments or qualities of a space. This is very bottom-up processing. We and me in particular, are used to working top-down. We develop a concept about the project as an overarching guide, and develop a floor plan and formwork from there.

While I am happy that we've not had any busywork to do like the other two studios, I must confess they are farther along than we are. Today, we figured out collectively, what scale the site topo was at. Their class have already created chipboard site models with thier tiny library model in place. Looking at what they had, and looking at what I had, I felt like quite the lousy student.
The meeting this morning didn't help much. He basically took a look at my floorplan and decided I was focusing too much on forms. I showed him a diagram of sun angles overlaid with scenic directions, and the converseation turned to using the sun in the site. He gave me a crash course in SketchUp, an awesome 3d modeling program anyone can use, really intuitive and simple. It's not as accurate as AutoCAD or make the buildings look as good as FormZ, but its really quick easy for playing with ideas. For example. I can draw a square, either by clicking and dragging or typing 2 coordinates. Then I can extrude it a distance to make a cube. Then I can draw on it, and wherever I draw across the surface, or enclose a shape, I can then pull or push that shape out or in. Another benefit is it has a really cool sun modeling program which lets you look at how the shadows will be during any time of day, any day of the year, for any city. My favorite feature, though, is that you can create pages of what you're looking at. So I can set up one page to show the shadows in the morning, and another in the late afternoon. When I click back on the first page tab, the shadow moves across the project as it transitions. I'm going to use it to help figure out orientation of the building on the site. The architecture computer lab has it on thier machines, but I'm considering getting it for my laptop as its only $50 a year for student licences.

Got some more work back today. I'm very happy to report a 91% on our first architecture history exam, although I realize we have another one next Thursday. AGHHHH!!! We also have our critical review papers to work on, a 5 page autobiography thats coming up at the beginning of november, and of course a massive project due two weeks from today.

Headache headache headache. This one is either stress, eye strain, or dehydration. I need to remember to bring my nalgene to school with me. The weather is appropriately somber, with the cool winds begining to make themselves felt and the overcast skies overhead. I've started wearing sweatshirts to school, mostly since its so cold in the library.

I reorganized and cleaned my room. I think it will stay clean this time.

Oct 16, 2005

Yum Kippur

The other night, I came home to find Ben's dad working in the kitchen. He had a bunch of great smelling food on the stove. It was Yom Kippur, the day of Attonement for Jews. They celebrate the new year about a week before on Rosh Hashana, and spend that week thinking about atonement, sort of like an annual cleaning of the soul, I guess. Anyway, it culminates with a fast, so Ben's dad had not eaten since the night before, 24 hours before that. He had decided that instead of breaking the fast at Taco Bell, he'd come over and cook for his son.

He made us huge broiled chicken breasts with garlic and onions, boiled broccoli, and rice with chicken stock, all served with wine and fresh french bread. It's the best meal I've had in a long time.

Still working on studio projects. I got a small massing model done yesterday, tweaking this and that. Played chess and watched movies with Jen last night. We may go to the desert botanical garden tonight and look at the gourd festival.

Oct 15, 2005

The Chronicles of Narnia

I just finished reading the last book in the Narnia series. This is the first time I've ever read the books and I must say that I was blown away by them. The stories include some of the most beautiful and haunting imagry I've read in a long time. What I found really interesting is that C.S. Lewis has essentially created a primer of Christianity for children which reads like an epic. I'm really glad I decided to read it now, because all the allegories, morality tales, and and symbolism is a lot more clear to me than if I had read it as a child. Harry Potter, with each tome in the series, doesn't even begin to compare to the power in these slim novels.

Lewis is extremely opinionated about several things in the stories. While he includes Fauns, Saytrs, and the pagan Greek god of wine Disonyous within the "good" kingdom of Narnia (The Christian Realm), the neighbors of Calormene (very clearly Islamic Arabs) with thier god, Tash, are most definately excluded and described as a most unsophisiticated, barbaric, scheming, ignoble, and warlike people. The Greek pagans are in, and the followers of Tash (Allah) are out.

Most of the stories however, focus on the key themes of faith, redemption, and the mind-boggling benevelent power of Aslan, the Great Lion (God and Christ). Lewis has created a new kind of Christian iconography though these stories, much more accessable and personable than the ones in the old and new Testiment. The Lion imagry is phenomenal. Aslan sings the world into existance, can move through time and space, heal all wounds, and defeat any foe. He opens gateways to other worlds, and lives in a country beyond the edge of the world. There is never any rejection of those who repent or redeem themselves, but only for those who refuse to see. Lewis never uses the words "Heaven" "Christ" or "God", but does goes on to say quietly that Aslan goes by another name in our world, and at the end of the world, all worlds link together.

I highly recommend re-reading or reading this series. Most of the books took me 1-3 days to read, so its pretty quick reading. Finding copies at the library is the tricky part. The people at Hayden Library are rolling their eyes at me at this point since I've been requesting the entire series from ASU's cirriculum stacks.

The weekend! Time to get down to work. Too much stuff to get done. It's almost ten, and I need to get on to studio.

Oct 12, 2005

"Pungently Optimistic Green"

Today was an improvement over yesterday. First thing I called the pizza place; they had my card. So I biked down and picked it up. In studio, we listend to a lecture on good library design and asked questions to an ASU professor who also has a practice.

We also got our laundry list of things we need to have two weeks from next monday. Our library project, phase I, is due on Halloween. Phase II of the same project will take the rest of the semeseter. Cemeteries last year, libraries this year. I'm not complaining though. Library over a cemetary any day. Anyway, its a ton of work and they're finally turning us loose. Our studio teacher though was commenting on how the moment of greatest insight into what your project is about and what it needs to be occurs at the moment of least resources, right before you present your project.

I thought this was interesting and plotted it like a quantiy-price economic graph, with time instead of price. Insight became the supply line and Resources fit the demand curve. At the beginning of a project, you have literally all your resources in front of you including time, but generally no idea or insight into your project. Halfway, I suppose, you reach a peak efficiancy zone where you have equal insight and resources. The end, unfortunatly, is the reverse of the beginning, where you have neither time nor resources for your high insight.

Anyway, tons of work ahead. I'm not even quite sure where to begin, besides a simple floor plan which will get me to a model. Then I can start reacting more to the site.

I realized yesterday that Will Bruder was going to be giving a lecture tonight at 6 PM, the time I start work. I asked a few poeple if they wanted to cover for me, but found no takers. So I came to work as usual, beating myself up for not having the foresight to check the date Bruder was going to come in and speak so I could find a replacement.

For those non-architecture people out there, Will Bruder is THE architect in Phoenix, and is establishing himself on a national and international level. A lecture by him on architecture is comparable to a lecture on international affairs by Henry Kissenger.

Our library supervisor who was absolutely worn out from a hectic time of being four people during the busiest time its ever been, went home surprisingly early at 6:15. There is almost always two students working nights, and I knew the person I was working with wouldn't mind if I slipped out for a bit. I found myself in a bit of a moral dillemia.

This was the one lecture out of the entire year I didn't want to miss. Should I have missed it as a punishment and reminder to keep all my dates straight and plan better? The student I work with almost every time takes off for fifteen to fourty-five minutes to get something to eat. However, the lecture would probably be an hour or more. As anyone proactive enough in architecture to be at the library after school would be at the lecture, there wasn't going to be a lot of work to do. And, in this case, work refers to shelving books, something I could do when I got back. On the other hand, no matter how one colors it, it is deceit. My supervisor expects me to be at work, and is paying me for my time. Granted, she herself is bending the rules and paying me for two hours on thursdays when I only work for an hour and a half, out of gratitude for my flexibility on previous dates. When I took this job, I recognized that this was for supplementary income and that school comes before everything else. I only work 15 hours a week, and I get homework done while I'm working. The library staff consider me an incredible asset and every evening, my supervisor thanks me for repairing the damage done to the library during the day.

I looked at my priorities. The moral infringement I incur by violating my responsibility to my job, (though it's just sitting at the desk), did not outweigh the responsibility to myself to gain the widest and best architectural education possible.
So I went to the lecture, and I'm content with my decision.

The lecture was packed. They had it in the huge lecture hall downstairs and there was stading room only in the back. Even the side asiles were full. I missed the first ten-fifteen minutes of it, where he talked about his background and introduced the first building. Jen went to the lecture to take notes for me and actually offered to take my place at the desk so I could go see it. She also thought the lecture was amazing.

It was a great lecture. Will talked about a few of his projects here in the valley, what was built, what inspired him, how he worked. It was funny because a few of buildings I recognized from traveling around, and in fact, when Jen and I stumbled upon his new downtown scottsdale apartments I stopped the car and we both started talking about it excitedly, not knowing who had built it. It had a striking lime green accents to counterbalance perforated rust panels, and this color caused a dispute with the city of scottsdale for about two months. When Bruder went before a special planning comission to talk to them, when they asked what color they were fighting over, he blurted out "pungenly optimistic green." The board laughed and eventually Bruder was able to keep the color.

ASU is financing the construction of a Gateway center. This will put an entrance to the ASU campus and a strong direct link to Mill Avenue. Will Bruder called up his "friends in the field," the incomparable Sir Norman Foster (on par with Tadao Ando and Frank Gehry) and another architect and they designed the project togather. It was hilarious seeing Norman Foster's studio in the center of London, huge steel and glass tower loft with hundreds of employees and Will Bruder and Norman Foster working on a table with an ASU pennant behind them. The project is going to be amazing, like nothing Phoenix has ever seen before. The Gateway center combines retail, apartment housing, a hotel, the ASU visitors center, and extentions of the art museum, architecture building, college of business, and college of art. It's going to be amazing. Unfortunately, it will probably only be complete after I graduate from grad school.

One of those days

Yesterday was really not my day at all. I was halfway to school before I remembered I had left my paper at home and so I had to turn around to go get it (better, I suppose, than remembering it before class). And that's how the day started. For the rest of the day I forgot things, dropped things, and nearly fell of my bike just riding on campus. When I went grocery shopping last night, I realized I'd left my debit card at the pizza place I'd eaten at for lunch. And then I had a reallly horrible dream in which I ate or otherwise lost both my arms at the shoulder.

It's these days that I have to slow myself down before I really get into trouble.

Grandma Case, however, has had a much more interesting time in Utah. Danger Betty, they call her. I managed to catch her online:

We went down to Moab for two days last week-end. We hiked in the big rocks. National Park Arches and the Canyonlands. that was fun. Didn't hurt my back and than we took a raft trip down the Co. River thru a few rapids. Had to paddle all the wayy. Most anyway. There was a guy from the New York Times that was doing a piece for suspose to be Thursday this week. They wanted someone to take the kyac and of course David volunteered. That left Brenda, the young girl guide little) myself and Carlotta to paddle and that went fine . It was sunny and nice. Stopped for lunch very nice. They know how to prepare a picnic in the sand. than Brenda did the little boat and the wind came up some so she traded back with David. Well when we were almost about 3/4 of a mile from our goal a storm came up rain and the wind was really strong blowin us back down the river. the guide banked it to turn the boat around and we got out and everyone almost got stuck in quick-sand like mud. Brenda had it up to her thigh. Carrie got stuck and pulled her shoe off. well what a mess. David had been watching for us and he ran down to where we were. About that time the wind died down and with David paddling too we were able to sail on home. Muddy but alive!

Wish I had days like that!

Oct 11, 2005

Mission Statement 2.0

Reworked it a bit, trying to add in a little more about being proactive.

I am Alexander.

The worlds outside and the worlds within
are mine to explore, to enjoy, and to create.

I shall never be lost, as long as I
drink from the spring of truth,
follow the river of knowledge,
walk the right path, and
stand on the earth of my family.

I fear not failure, but inaction,
which kills the breath of brilliance.
but by my courage, I shall earn success:
When I act, the world moves with me.

I shall walk all my days in sunlight,
and when my fading vision sights
the far and final wink in the west,
I shall wink back
because I did and was all that I can
and all that I am.
and I remembered to laugh.

Oct 10, 2005

When we pinned what we had up on the wall today in architecture, I had the widest variety of media exploring my project. Let me take a step back. There are three studio professors, I have the most senior one who is running the program. I just lucked out that way. We were given a handout of what was expected for presentation today. It was left extremely vauge and confusing. For instance, it only specified three 1' = 1/2" section drawing, but on a vertically oriented 11"x17" sheet of paper. This means that if you follow the directions, you can only show about 20 feet of a space.

Thoughly confused, but following the studio axiom of "when in doubt, draw for clarity" I drew sections on much wider peices of paper. I also did a bunch of little notebook pen sketches which I colored in with pencil showing various interior moments. Jen is a bit irritated that we have this assignment as it a lot of interior work and dealing with interior design issues.

I also wrote a short story detailing how the spaces felt and describing them as I moved through them, but then it turned into a horror story in which I described the spaces the character was running through to escape a Horror. I'll have to put that little story on here. The studio professor made me read it out loud. The last thing I did was write a top ten list of things I hate about hayden library and how I would improve them.

The other studio for today had to have NINE section drawings, and THREE section models, where they actually build about ten feet deep sections. I'm really glad I'm not in that class.
I desperately need to do laundry tonight. I'll have to buck up and pay the apartment washer price since the laundromat I go to closes at ten. All I really need is the essentials.

There are architecture students working in the building from 7 AM until 4 AM almost every night. No other building keeps its lights on 24/7 at ASU. Why is this?
Is it because we have more work than any other discipline on campus? I assumed this was the case all last semester. I don't think so any more. I think architecture students just tend to be more dedicated to the program. The program is so intense, especially the first two years, that it completely changes the way you percieve the world. Architecture becomes a lifestyle. I think it really transcends homework because your work becomes part of you. It's definately got that aspect of art. Its also amazingly fun. At least, it is at this point. The first two years were a struggle, and I dont think I had as much fun as I've had this semester. At this point too, everyone has paid thier dues, gone through the crucible of getting into upper division and that fierce passion for design is the glue which really holds the design community togather.

Anyway, I was going to write about something else which I have forgotten. This entry is long enough anyway.

Jacked in

Spent most of today writing the paper. I'll have to proof and edit it tomorrow. At least I can upload it to the school server and edit it on the library machines. Also today, I discovered a music library online that the school subscribes to. It's a massive digital database of streamed music- classical, chinese, contemporary jazz, and world/folk. I really enjoy the Pida and chinese percussion stuff. I aslo cleared off my desk and rotated my flatscreen so I can do word documents and read web pages more easily. Whenever I need to do more computer modeling, I can always rotate it back if it will fit easier that way.

Oct 9, 2005

Tradegdy, followed by a Sci-fi Thriller Western

Figures now place the death toll of the earthquake in Kashmir in the 14,000's.
14,000 lives lost in the disaster. Makes Hurricane Katrina look like a afternoon shower with its toll of "just" over 1,000. For me, even 1,000 lives lost is a bit hard to comprehend. I have to think about it as all the juniors and seniors at my old high school being killed in order to understand it. Even then, it still feel numb. Numb-ers do that. What is the numb-er gradiant where it doesn't feel so bad? If one person is killed, its the worst, because we can see that one person. We feel, poignantly, all that person was or could have been. When it becomes two people killed, it's a nastier shock, but not that much nastier. And so on. We recoil in horror when a bus of 14 people catches fire, but with nearly the same recoil, take in 30 deaths in a riot. It would seem we plateau- there are limits to our ability to come to terms with horrorible things. We simply don't have the emotional reserves to handle the magnitude. Perhaps it follows a logrithmic curve.

So when I see that 14,000 died in Afghanistan, I can only sigh with sadness. The immensity of it is beyond me. That over 30,000 died in the tsunami last winter felt surreal. There was nothing to relate it to. In product design, if something fails and causes more than one death, than it is said to be "catastophic". What is "catastrophic" multiplied many times worse? "Biblical" is the only word that comes to mind.

Anyway, I went to a really fun party last night where two friends of mine were celebrating thier birthday. It was a huge party, very sucessful, and I was surprised that the police never came by. It was pretty quiet by the street though.

Today I worked on my library project, drafting two sections and doing more hand sketches. I finished reading Blink!, so I need to pound out a rough draft tomorrow so I can edit it for Tuesday.

This evening I went to see Serenity with Jen and her mom, Diane. I'm surprised they agreed to see it, actually. When I first saw the preview for it, my first reaction was "this is going to be really corny and stupid." I was amazed, however, when it got an 81% approval rating on . The movie is essentially a spagetti western set in space. One reviewer compared it to what Star Wars would have been like if Han Solo was the main focus. It was really a fun movie, and while it cobbled togather a story and some characters from other movies, it blended them togather really well, using complete unknowns for the roles. It's a genre-bender too: sci-fi, thriller, comedy, western. It's really got a campy feel to it, and even though the trailer gives all the good scenes away, its still a fun time. The director really did not take himself, nor the movie, as seriously as Lucas. Dad would like it the most, and I think mom would like it too.

Oct 7, 2005

A Retched Reduction

Today I went up to scottsdale to the arabian library. I took pictures of the site and inside the existing library, and made notes and measurements. I forget what an identity Scottsdale has created for itself. Even at the library, everywhere you look its slim, fashion-conscious moms in high-end SUVs. I do really appreciate the effort that went into and maintianing the desert landscaping in the city however, especially north of Shea. Gas prices up there are almost twenty cents higher per gallon than what I paid down here in Tempe. After scoping out the site and taking a lot of pictures I went over the Desert Mountian and Palomino library. I took some more pictures there (with the librarians giving me strange and hostile looks) and then took a quick peek inside the high school where I went.

It was so authoritarian, no one in the halls, it felt like a prison. It was such an unpleasant experiance I left after about five minutes without trying to look up old teachers.

I spent the rest of the day reading from Blink! finally taking a break to head down to Food City for sustainance. I was talking to Jen about what she spends per week on food, and I was blown away when she said $20. "I only buy stuff that's fresh" she said, in explanation. "Fruits, vegitables; milk is really the only expensive thing besides the frozen orange juice." So this time, I tried to only buy the really fresh stuff. I bought some potatos on sale, then some mexican green onion, then some regular onions, a bell pepper, and finally some ground beef chorizo. The meat was a little less than two dollars, and the vegitables were less than a dollar a piece for the quanities. I also picked up some limes for mixing with tonic water.

When I got home, I sauted the onion (but added too much oil) and added the chorizo. While that cooked, I added the green onion and the potatos I had coarsely chopped. What I should have done was cook the potatos separtately, maybe boiling them or something, because they refused to cook in the chorizo/oil mixture. I let it sit for about ten minutes with the chorizo starting to burn a bit, then added about two cups of orange juice. (I was thinking, yeah, liquid to help boil the potatos, maybe get a spicy/orange flavor out of it) Then I let it reduce and simmer for about fifteen minutes. Before slapping it on a tortilla and rolling it with fresh pepper jack cheese.

It was retched. By far one of the worst culinary experiments I'd done in a long time. I ate about half of the burrito before conceeding defeat. The armies of orange and the chorizo were attacking each other, and their corpses which littered my burrito were giving off a funky wang.

As some of you know, I have an esteemed history of culinary experiments gone wrong. At the age of five or six, I toasted a rice cake and suceeded in starting a small kitchen fire. If the Ig Nobel Prize had a culinary prize, I would have won it with this thing.

Speaking of the Ig Nobel prizes, they just had this years award. You can check them out here. I think its absolutely hilarious. Every year this international panel presents spoof awards to those experiments which should not be repeated. The winner of the prize for literature went to the many Nigerians for creating the diverse and interesting cast of characters who send you an email claiming someone died and they want to share the money with you- but they need a small amount for their expenses. I love reading those emails because they try to use high-sounding language, but are so ridiculous and obviously fake.

Oct 6, 2005

Thin-Slicing and Andre Agassi's forehand

Learned some more interesting things at school today. In architectural history, our teacher is finally drooling over the Roman civilization. He get so excited in his lectures, he occationally has difficultly talking, and he gestures with his arms all over the place. Its still preferable to my human factors teacher, who is putting everyone to sleep.

We found out we're going to have the contractor teach us wood properties and construction next semester. This class we learned how to calcuate moment of inertia for section properties of beams by breaking the section down into its componant shapes. The moment of inertia describes the strength of the section (and the beam) and along with its bendiness (modulous of elasticity) and the forces on it, can tell us how much the beam will bend. It's all formulas and equations, although individually its pretty simple. He said at the beginning of the class that all structural engineering is bookkeeping.

I've started bringing my lunch to school again. The long school days plus the work meant that I was going for twelve hours without food, and that was just not working out.

In Finding purpose we talked about stress and stress management. Fun fact for the day #1, we lose most of the water in our body in the moisture we exhale. Less water adds to stress, so we especially need to drink lots of water down here. He talked about various types of stress from survial, to enviornmental, to internal, and work related. In discussing things we're worried about or thinking about, he said our body disregards the time of the event, so that when I'm really worried about a project due in a week, my body goes into the flight or fight mode right now. This energy has to go somewhere and its usually destructive. For people like me who get stress headaches, he recommended "face yoga" where you scrunch up and relax the face to get the muscle tension out. He also highly recommended walking and meditation.

A few stresses right now: A three page single spaced book report due tuesday for a book I've only recently started. Forutnately its an interesing book. More on that later. Also for monday I need to have three sections drafted from my library model along with support matreial in the form of narrative text on what the space to feel like, and colored sketched details. I'm also out of clean clothes. At least I'll have the weekend free to get all this stuff done, as Jen's mom is coming down for the weekend.

The book I'm writing the report on is Blink! The Power of Thinking without Thinking. Check it out at The main idea of the book is that our subconscious mind is really good at making lighting quick analysis and decisions. Some people call it instinct, some people call it gut reaction, this author calls it thin-slicing. It's the idea behind speed dating- the singles get a slice of a person and either get an instant connection or instant dislike. One example from the book was of a study done by an insurance company which issued malpractice insurance. They wanted to see what kind of doctors were sued and which weren't. The first surprising thing was that who was sued was almost completely irrelevant to whether or not they made medical mistakes. People tend not to sue doctors they like. The ones who were sued didn't spend enough time talking to the patients, providing opportunities for questions, or telling them what they were doing. The researchers listened to a few minutes of recorded conversation, and were able to predict with good accuracy which doctors were more likely to be sued. One researcher took out the high pitched noises which made the words garbled, but left the tone, pitch, and sense of the converstaion. The same predictions were made with just 14 seconds of tonal speech.

Well, here I am thinking I'm writing my paper. Sorry about that. Jump to the good bit.

Andre Agassi had his forehand taped and anlyzed on tape. The researchers looked at it second by second, watching how he hit the ball. Agassi talked about how he rolled his wrist over the ball when he hits it, but the researchers saw that he hit the ball with a straight wrist, and rolled right after. In fact, its impossible to see the ball in the last five feet of flight. It's moving too fast for us to process consciously. But our subcounscious mind can predict where it will be and tells the arm how to hit it -I guess you'd call it muscle memory, but its really in the subconscious mind.

Anyway, going to see Serenity tonight with Jen at the drive-in. It's actually gotten some pretty decent reviews.

Oct 5, 2005

How to Interact With Your New Mentor

I signed up for a mentor program which pairs you with ASU architecture alumni. Jen brought it to my attention as she's a mentor coordinator for the interior design association at ASU. The Allumni group is actually the one coordinating everything and they did a pretty poor job at advertising the event. There was a good mix of people there, for the about 20 students who did show up. Three landscape design, ten interior design, six architecture, two industrial design, and a few planning students.

At the orientation at the beginning, as the organizers were introducing themselves, I thought one of them looked familiar. I took a look at her name badge and recognized Michelle Watanabe. She was working on a business degree after her architecture masters and organized a group of three high schoolers for the "It makes a village" masonry event back when I was in high school. She was surprised to see me and didn't recognize me at first with my little jawline beard. She congratulated me on getting into upper division and gave me her business card. She's VP at a small firm I think she helped start.

Last years mentor program sounded like a flop. Apparently no one bothered to stay in touch with thier mentors after the first meeting, if they met at all. To rectify this problem, the organizers included a thick packet of worksheets and a callender specifiying when to send an email, when to organize a lunch, when the mentor would send a peice of advice, and worksheets of academic and professional goals to discuss with your mentor. I found it a bit ridiculous, especially the worksheet to fill out before returning in the spring: What did you do over your winter break? [etc.] Your mentor will ask you these questions and others during the welcome back mixer. Even our conversations are apparently scripted. I had a sudden vision of everyone standing around with thier mentor with thier nose stuck in the packet of scripts responding automatically to the questions the mentors read off of their sheets.

Anyway, the mentor-mentee group split off into our respective fields. There were six architecture students and about twelve mentors. Granted, not everyone could make it to the meeting that signed up, but I was still surprised by the amount of architect mentors there.

We wore name badges and essentially speed-dated each mentor, moving from each one and talking for about five minutes. At the end of the session, we would write down our top three choices of mentors and submit them. There was an interesting mix of architects there. There were a few project managers, a technical spec writer, a guy who oversaw tract housing design who encouraged me to take a few law classes, a Taiwanese architect who sounded really interesting when I could understand him half of the time, and an architect who worked for a firm which built projects for itself from investment.

Still need to go into the office to look over the profiles to make our final decisions.

Oct 4, 2005

Mission statement

In my Finding Purpose class we've been working on value clarification and excercises leading up to the creation of a mission statement. Mission statements identify core values and goals, and act as compasses as life can throw curves or begin to gradually shift you from where you want to be. This mission statements should be read every morning and should have an effective term of 10 years, when its time to re-evaluate where and who you are.
Here is a rough draft of my mission statement. We're supposed to mull it over for a few weeks, see what needs to be tweaked to be just right, and submit a final copy in november.

I am Alexander.
The world without and the worlds within
are mine to explore, to enjoy, to create.

I will not fear to face the sun
so long as I drink from the spring of truth,
swim in the river of knowlege,
walk the right path,
and stand on the earth of my ancestors.

I will not fear failure,
but by my courage, earn success.

When the last I see is the last wink in the west
I shall wink back
because I did and was all that I am.

Until then, I will walk in the sun,
and call the whole world home,
and take it with me.

Oct 3, 2005

Under the Tucson Sun

Saturday, I kicked back and watched the ASU-USC football game which was completely sold out. It was a great game- up until halftime. ASU had USC shut down 21-7, then USC completely turned the situation around to a heartbreaking defeat in the fourth quarter.

Later that afternoon, Jen and I drove down to Tucson, less than two hours away. We stayed at Cassie and Whitney's apartment and hung out with them all night. Sunday morning, I showed Jen the highlights of University of Arizona before we headed back to phoenix so Jen could meet her dad. Jen, who'd never been to Tucson before, wasn't impressed. She said it reminded her of little towns in California. Road trips are always a nice break; they seem to make the weekend seem longer they actually are.

Today in studio we talked about different issues in layouts. It really feels like we're dragging our feet in this project, which is especially painful when we think about the vast amount of work we can almost see on the horizon.

Oct 1, 2005

School Spending

Thursday night, I went bowling with Jen, Chris, and a bunch of Chris' friends from work at BestBuy. The alley we went to was difficult to find, as its sign had burnt out and the building was set back really far from the street. Inside, it was absolutely packed. Thursday nights are a dollar a game (plus a buck for shoes). The alley had been redecorated last in the 1970's so that was kind of interesting. Combine that with all the college kids with pitchers of beer and the beat up old cars outside, and it felt like I was wandering around the 70's. It made me especailly conscious of the big soccer-mom minivan. Anyway, my bowling sucked. I can't even remember the last time I'd even been bowling. The second game was better, but not by much. It was still fun, though.

Yesterday, I returned some CDs to the library and took a look at Changing Hands bookstore down in tempe. I was instantly reminded of Brace Books and More in Ponca City- they had that natural thing going with beads and stuff for the house sold alongside the mixed new and used books.

I headed down to school where I picked up and deposited my paycheck from the library. Speaking of the library, the other night this very strange guy came in, and was extremely annoyed I didn't know how to print off a reciept showing he didn't have any more books that were being recalled. His whole attitude was so condescending and abrupt, it reminded me of a Ross customer. He had had three books recalled (that is, someone else puts a request in for them, otherwise you can renew to your hearts content) and immediately filled out recall cards to get them back asap. This guy had 551 books checked out, some of them doubles. Something was strange about this situation. I did some further research on this guy and found out he had reviewed all 87 cafes, restuarants, and bars in downtown Tempe, and cataloged every tree and bush on campus for an exhaustive areal survey book he published. Definately some kind of obsessive-compulsive personality.

Last night, Jen and I biked down to Mill Avenue where it was hopping from all the people going to and coming from Octoberfest down in the big park. We walked around, got ice cream, and people watched. Afterwards, we went on a bike tour of new asu construction. There are some really cool buildings. The first one we saw was a new applied science building, which was still pretty empty. A long courtyard runs the lenght of the building with second and third floor walkways. On the second floor, Jen was appalled to find Herman Miller and Knoll designer chairs and tables. These two compainies are the Mercedes-Benz' of the designer furnature world. The combined value of the 8 chairs and 2 tables is about $9,000. These were just sitting there, getting dirty, and able to be taken by the first unscrupulus person to come across them. She was especailly distressed to find them in an engineering and applied sciences building, where no one would recognize them. Similiarly comfortable and styled chairs can be had fo a quarter of the price, so why is the school spending tuition money on the designer label?

Medium is the message

I moved the blog again. I deleted the Tumblr account and moved everything to, a more writing-centric website.