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.

Medium is the message

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