Jun 29, 2007

Performance Review and Design Forum

I forgot to mention, last week, I presented my studio "thesis" project at work during the official "Design Forum" they have every month. Basically, during lunch a person presents a place they went, a project they worked on, or something else related to them, completely optional. I took all my work and over two nights compiled it into a powerpoint presentation, which was actually the ideal format for this project, since it was best described by the flythroughs, animations, and videos I took. Most of the firm came down to see it, and it was pretty well recieved. I think I impressed the principals, at least they commended me on my presentation ability. So that was that.

This week, I had my performance review meeting, which wasn't nearly as official as I'd been expecting. I met with two principals I'd worked under, and we talked very informally about my goals, where I ultimately want to end up, how I felt I was doing, and if I needed anything or had any comments or suggestions. Went pretty well, they said they were glad to have me, and they really appreciated my abilities with sketchup.

Work is work, pretty normal. Tuesday, Saori and I met Chase and Tovah at the Phoenix art museum. Tuesday nights are extended until 9 PM and its free all day. After walking around the musuem, we had a big Chinese feast in Tempe. The next day, I met the pair again at the Heard Museum for lunch. The Heard has a really nice small cafe off the main patio, a little effeminine in touch but really good food. I got two hand made tamales with an ancho chili and hominy cream sauce. They went back to Colorado that night.

Here are some photos of my life and where I live

My Public Shoebox

Jun 24, 2007

Road Trips

Some interesting events from this week: Ahem,

Thursday was the summer solstice and me and a coworker went to see solar noon at the Burton Barr library. The library, which was a collaboration between Will Bruder, DWL, Rick Joy, Wendell Burnette, and many others, has a top floor which is about 30 feet clear to the roof, which is a floating roof, suspended on cables tied to columns. This floating roof means that there is a gap between the roof and the walls on either side. At solar noon, the sunlight washes directly down the concrete walls, all the way to the floor. There was a big crowd. Bruder was there, and gave a speech about the library as a "solar temple", as was as my sketching teacher and a classmate who now works for Bruder. Another Philipino guy who used to work for DWL, and did a lot of the drawings for the library showed us around after the event, and gave us a bunch of stories about its design and construction.

Friday, Chase came to town with his girlfriend, and I picked them up at the airport that evening. I actually stopped in at the "Stage and Go" lot to wait which was kind of fun. Stage and go is a bit like a drive in movie, except you just watch the flights which either say "in range" or "ready for pickup." I thought it was kind of strange, especially since it usually takes about twenty minutes after your plane lands to get you your luggage at sky harbor. Anyway, they were very impressed with the Prius, and I was happy to show it off to them. Chase took us out to Trader Vic's in Scottsdale, a restaurant he's been craving for awhile. We went here the last time he was in town, actually. We had some minor problems finding it as neither one of us could remember where it was exactly, and we ditched the valet service since I'd have to explain how to operate the car. It was a good evening, we hit the Valley Ho lounge for some drinks while we waited, (they didn't know how to make an Aviator, unfortunately for Chase). Food was really good, great appetizers of steak on small skewers which are served rare and can be flamed over sterno to doneness. I had the bbq pork chop, and Chase bought a round of Mai Tais, which were incidentally invented at Trader Vics.

Saturday morning, Saori (pronounced like saudi, but instead of a d, use a slightly rolled r) and I drove up to Sedona to meet some friends. We drove up the long way, by way of Payson, and up through the Rim. I really much prefer to take the longer, more beautiful roads over the straight shot through hell I-17. Our friends had gone camping the night before, and we called when we got up there and planned to meet at Slide Rock park.

When we got to Slide rock, the entrance was blocked by a massive line of cars and police turning new cars away. We finally found a parking spot on the side of the road in a turnout over half a mile away near the campsites. Sedona was packed this weekend. I've seldom seen so many people packed into a single place in Arizona. Slide rock was crammed full of people, families, screaming children, everyone. My experiences and preferences with nature tend to be 1 on 1 or with very small groups. So I was less able to appreciate the cool water and the beauty because it felt infested with people. It was still nice to enjoy the cold water and small waterfalls though.
Saori pointed out that you can't have great natural places like this so easily accessible and NOT have tons of people go there.

Our friends never showed up though, they were turned away in their cars and decided not to try to find parking elsewhere. It was ok. We really enjoyed the drive up. Driving back into town on the I-17, my eyes began to burn a bit, and I absent mindedly rubbed them with my hand. Instantly the burning began to get worse and worse and I began tearing up and blinking. It was a bad time, especially since there was no place to turn off and traffic was intesifiying as we approached the outer limits of Phoenix. It became difficult to keep my eyes open, and finally I pulled out onto an access road and parked in a construction site. We washed my eyes out repeatedly and washed off my hands. My eyes were totally bloodshot, although the water flushed out or diluted whatever was burning them. Saori drove the rest of the way back, although we stopped off at Chino Bandito since we were in the Neighborhood.

Jun 17, 2007

This week has been a lot easier than the last, and I've actually had some time to work on design as opposed to just doing autocad plans, sections, and elevations. No late nights, which is a good thing.

My typical day is to wake up around 6:45, shower, grab a bowl of cereal, and walk to work, which takes about ten minutes. The street my office is on is 90% residential, with all these great tiny houses from the 1930s that have been renovated, and added to. Every one of them has a porch and they all look completely different. It's a tree lined street, so the walk is always a pleasure. Once I get to work, I check emails, get some hot water for my mate tea, and start work. There's usually a short informal meeting sometime in the morning, and then I walk back home for lunch. Sometimes, I hit schlotzky's deli or burger king instead if I'm short on time, but I enjoy the psychological benefits of going back home and walking outside. Work the rest of the afternoon, and then leave at 5:30 for the walk back home.

This week I met some friends for drinks at chilis, went to a surprise birthday for my roomate in Argentina, and went to the company picnic.

The picnic was fun, way outside phoenix at Lake Pleasant. Water level was very low, which was interesting to see. It was still very cold and refreshing in the 110 degree heat. They provided us with two boats, a pontoon boat for cruising and a wakeboard boat for tubing and skiing. They also had plenty of bbq.

Jun 11, 2007

second week... performance review time!

What a week its been!

Monday, I started my professional career as a salaried “Job Captain” of the architecture office I work for. I am working with a team of two project architects and a guy closer to my age with more experience. We had a big client meeting Friday, so it was really crunch time this week. What I did was pretty standard drawings: plans and sections, but I also did a bunch of work tabulating areas and comparing them to previous meetings to make sure we were working within a certain square footage. A client would not want to to find out that he was paying for more space. It was pretty tricky and aggravating sometimes.

We reconfigured the parking garage to make it more affordable and efficiant, but the numbers were just not working in plan, so I had to make a 3d model and calculate each floor including ramps, and then the numbers started working. One thing I realized midweek is that the thing that really bogs my work down is the little incorrect details. I see one thing wrong in the plan, correct that, and see other little things wrong, and spend awhile trying to figure out why its wrong or why a certain wall won’t match another. Way too much time. I need to find a method of getting my work done on time, without sacraficing the quality of the end result. Maybe it doesn’t have to be 100% the way there for the stage we’re at. Maybe we can hold at 80 or 90%. Its probably a learning curve thing too. I’m decent at Autocad, but I’m not really good, fast, or intimate with it, so that’s another thing.

The first day I started, I was surprised to see that there were three OTHER new people starting work with me. One of them was an intern from ASU, like I was between my third and fourth years, one of them was like me, a recent graduate form out of state, and the other was a guy from one of my studios last year, who graduated with me. So that was a bit of a surprise. For the size of the firm, there’s been a lot of new hires since I’ve been associated with them. There’s a lot of work to be done.

Tuesday, the HR guy came by and gave me a performance review questionaire. My second day on the job, and I was being lined up for a performance review. As illogical as it seems, I realized that I’d technically been with the firm for about a year now, including my summer internship, my time in Buenos Aires and working a few hours a week last semester.

But nothing struck home that I was now a regular employee until I received a black wire in basket, a black swingline stapler, a black tape dispenser, black scissors, and a black wire mesh pencil holder.

I worked a lot this week for this client meeting. In total, I put in over 50 hours of work. Staying late, coming in early, coming back to work after dinner, that kind of thing. Good thing I live close. Actually, almost every day I’ve walked to work, and sometimes back home for lunch too. It’s less than a ten minute walk from where I live. We got it all done, nicely, correct, and printed out, with only some minor crises. Actually the whole thing went pretty smoothly due to the experience of the people in my team, and I left at 10:30 AM Friday after the architects left for the meeting. I used the rest of the day to relax, do laundry, and studiocleaning. Since quarters are so hard to come by, I’ve started drying my laundry outside on a line. Works pretty well.

Saturday morning, I drove to a co-worker’s house and we and some of his friends drove up to do some salt river tubing. Salt river tubing is essentially floating down the salt river, more like a creek, on tubes for a few hours while drinking beer. There are hundreds of people out there. As this was my second time, I thought I was pretty well prepared. I brought a lot of extra water, hat, sunglasses, I wore a shirt, and used a lot of sunscreen, but for some reason, I neglected my legs. At any rate, after floating down the river for a few hours, the front and inside of my legs were badly badly burned from my ankles to midthigh. Not blistering, but close to a second degree burn. It hurts like hell. My skin is bright red, it hurts to walk, and its so sensitive that it stings a bit when the wind breezes over it.

After I got back home, Saori took me out and we drove to a friend of hers for dinner who happens to be an ER nurse. She’s Japanese too, and has been like a big sister or aunt for Saori while she’s been here. Anyway, it was a very nice evening, she made us dinner, and her neighbor gave us a tour of the milky way with his big telescope. I was wiped out by the end of the day. Saori’s friend gave me some aloe gel and moisturizing lotion to help with the burn, and this morning I went out and picked up some of my own. It’s going to be a few nights of sleeping on my back.

Jun 3, 2007

backaching birthright

It's been a lazy week so far. I decided start working next monday, the 4th of June, so I've had some time. Of course, last friday, saturday, sunday, and monday I was moving in, with many thanks to Saori, Jonathan, and Joe. Monday I swung by Sally's house and ate lunch there. Afterwards I picked up my "Birthright" couch.

This is a low gray fabric covered couch which unfolds into a bed, and while the couch is decently sittable, the bed is incredibly uncomfortable. The four inch thick mattress has been folded so many times, its compressed the springs in spots and you literally feel the bars of the bed frame beneath your back spaced out every three feet. The best way to lay on this mattress is to lie parallel to the couch if you are short enough, or diagonally, with lots of padding beneath you. Interestingly, this was the same couch owned by my parents since before I can remember, and sold to Sally before my parents moved overseas for the first time about ten years ago. Now, Sally and Jonathan are moving, and the couch is passed back to the son like Anakin's lightsaber. The circle is complete.

The other day, Saori and I drove up to Kierland Commons, where we mostly window shopped, but we both picked up books on taking the GRE exam, which is necessary for admittance to most graduate schools. I'm not too worried about the verbal or writing sections, but the math section is going to be really bad as I've not reviewed any kind of mathematics outside structural calculations for the last four years.

Wednesday night, Saori and I met our sketching teacher at a coffee bar in downtown Phoenix. LUX is pretty cool, and seems to cater to the young, hipster, graphic arts and design community. Decent coffee but amazing coffee-icing cupcakes. He handed our sketchbooks back to us, talked about work, and asked us each to make a copy of our sketchbooks for his class.

Yesterday afternoon, we walked (about a block) to the Heard Museum, to their cafe. It was about lunchtime, but they were completely accommodating about just serving us coffee. The cafe has lots of outdoor seating at small tables in a tree shaded courtyard of the museum, and it was the closest I've felt to a European cafe in Phoenix.

We finally caught up with Aldo last night, and we met at Trax for a drink. Aldo's been working already at a small, four person firm. He mentioned the architect, the secretary, and later mentioned that he was working with Emily who also went to Buenos Aires with us. Aldo is the fourth member of the firm, so at this point, I know half of the firm. Sounds like a good job though, and its very close to where I work downtown.

I discovered an auxilary port inside the console tray of my Prius, so I can hook anything that has a headphone jack, like my iPod. A nice little feature.

I've spent a lot of time driving this week, mostly using the surface streets from Phoenix to Tempe. I mainly drive along Van Buren, probably one of the most incredible streets in Phoenix. Van Buren starts in the heart of downtown Phoenix near the State Capitol and passes by the pioneer cemetery. It rolls into a really sleazy neighborhood of prostitutes, used car dealerships, discount stores, and cheap motels from 30 years ago with names like "Log Cabin Lodges" and "Apache Motel." It runs by the heavily fenced and fortified State (mental) Hospital, and further on, a dog racing track and massive flea market. By the time you get to Tempe, you're in the rolling desert hills of Papago Park, and you pass by the ancient Tovrea Castle (wedding cake building). There, Van Buren bends south, and crosses the old bridge over Tempe Town Lake, at night beautifully lit with lights, before continuing as Mill Avenue, through the college and arts shopping district of Tempe. Mill avenue rounds the bend south of campus, giving passengers a fly around of Frank Llyod Wright's Gammage Auditorium, before shuttling them along Apache. Apache is pretty typical road, except for the fact that the light rail is going to run on it, and then Apache becomes the main street of Mesa.

Medium is the message

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