Dec 26, 2010

Driven to Air travel

Today, mom and I drove off from Ponca City, leaving Suki behind with Grandma. It's slightly less than two hours to Tulsa, where I dropped my car off at the long term parking at the airport. Unfortunately, the lots were busier than I expected. When we pulled up, I asked the gate attendent about the $6 per day parking I was expecting. "oh, that's across the railroad tracks, but its full anyway." So, I ended up opting for the last spot in the $7.50 lot. The service was really nice though. The airport shuttle guided me to the spot, the driver gave me a card with my exact location on it, and whisked mom and I away to the terminal.

After driving to Ponca City, and finding a $250 RT flight to St.Louis, I decided to book it. Now I'm kind of questioning my decision. Driving back to St.Louis would have taken about $40 for gas and munchies, and about six to seven hours. So total cost is around $80 plus the risk of driving for 7 hours alone two times in chancy winter weather. I already have to make a return trip when I pick up Suki, and I was not looking forward to making the 8 hour journey four times. On the flip side, tickets cost me about $250, plus I'm looking at over $100 for parking, plus I'm getting in to St.Louis several hours later than if I had actually just dropped mom at the airport and driven. So its not really a time savings or a cost savings by any stretch of the imagination. It's more convenient, but I hate airports and airline travel. Not sure I would do this again.

Anyway, in Tulsa, mom and I went through the TSA security (theater) checkpoint separately, and we when we met up on the other side, we realized that we had both declined to go through the backscatter "naked" xray scanners. My TSA agent was very professional, and explained what he was going to do and exactly where his hands were going to be. Overall, less intrusive than I was expecting. Probably doubled the amount of time it took to get me through security though.

I object to the use of the backscatter Xray scanner specifically, and the knee-jerk idiocy of the overall TSA security policies in general.  I don't approve of the shady connections and deals that went on between the single manufacturer of the machienes and the director of the TSA, I don't approve of how the TSA lied about the machine's capabilities to store images and transmit them online, and I don't approve of this new intrusion into my personal privacy. All of this was ok to the other passengers checking in, however. I think mom and I were the only ones I saw getting a pat down.

::steps down from soap box::

So, I transferred at Atlanta, and my flight was delayed an hour. (It was snowing in Atlanta and the airport was dealing with the chaos of a raft of cancellations in the NE). But, now I'm on the flight to St.Louis, we're about 40 minutes behind schedule, sitting in an aisle seat with an empty middle, and connected to the internet on a plane! So that is pretty cool. :) Here we go decending....

Dec 24, 2010

Merry Christmas to all

Just watched some home video shot by grandpa Case of Christmas 1989. Over 20 years ago, seventh month old baby Taylor was the star of the show, followed closely by six year old Alec and eight-year-old Casey. Grandkids get all the attention. The extended Case family was as yet still unjoined by David, Danny, Jenny, and Carrie.

Surrounded by family as I am on this Christmas eve, there's more than a few people missing; those whom I am lucky enough to see again, and those whom I will never see again. I am, as ever, forcibly reminded by how lucky I am to have such a wonderful family. I'm sitting at the bar in Grandma's house, which grandma has started calling "the computer lab" as we all have our netbooks set up here, while Uncle David and Aunt Brenda make a salad and attempt to find out from grandma Case where salad ingredients and implements are. Mom's in the study on the phone skyping with Tay, and Saori is hopefully having a wonderful time with her family in Yokohama where it is already Christmas day.

Today was a pretty lazy day too. Took a walk through the woods and scrub with Uncle David and we had a good discussion of architecture. Grandma pulled out a pair of ostrich boots that used to belong to my grandfather and they fit pretty nice as well as looking pretty nice. We're going to go the candle light ceremony at the church tonight, followed by a Christmas eve dinner.

To all my friends and family, spread as they are across this tiny planet, Merry Christmas.

Still in Oklahoma

Got a lazy start today. Us guys went to the late showing of Tron:Legacy last night. It was the second time I saw it. Still pretty fun. After Karsten got up, we drove down to wander around the Marland Mansion for a bit. They always decorate it pretty nicely for Christmas, so its kind of fun. Afterwards, we went back to the movie theater to rescue Karsten's hat.

Back at Grandma's house, we ate some more Head country BBQ, which, by the way, is the best BBQ I've ever eaten, and played some cards. There's this card game that I learned from Saori and her friends, which is pretty simple to learn and understand, but is surprisingly fun and strategic. They called it "asshole" and described it as a drinking game, but I don't really see how it could be a good drinking game as it would difficult to win while drinking, and also, there's no real good points to drink. The game is played in Taiwan, Korea, and Japan, as far as I know, where they call it "Daihimen" which roughly translates to "rich man." For the sake of polite conversation around relatives, we've been calling it "kings and losers" although "kings and peons" might be more appropriate.

Anyway, Grandma Loretta came back from visiting with her friend, and she picked up Karsten and drove back to Oklahoma city. Danny and Uncle Tracy also headed out about then too, catching a flight to Louisiana to spend Christmas with Kim's relatives. So now its just me, mom, grandma, David, Brenda, and Carrie. (and Suki, who is becoming so comfortable with her temporary home, she is jumping up on the tables).

Brenda gave her new book on urban planning to Grandma, and it looks pretty good. I'll probably pick up a copy from the publisher. It's called The Evolution of Urban Form: Typology for Planners and Architects.

Dec 22, 2010

Final presentation images

The project is apartments in St.Louis, a mix of studios, one and two bedrooms, and living-working units.

Dec 20, 2010

Long days

It's been a very long two days. We cleaned the apartment to make it as spotless as possible, re-arranged some of the furniture, and packed for our trips. We stopped cleaning at midnight, slept for two hours, and then got up at three am to take our friend Sam to the airport. Sam is going to Helsinki for the semester after visiting her family in Japan, so its going to be a very long trip away from St.Louis. We are really going to miss her. Once we got back home, we finished cleaning, loaded up the car, drugged Suki and headed out for Oklahoma around a quarter to eight in the morning. It takes a long time to get out of St.Louis.

It's a long drive to Ponca City, especially if one goes by way of Tulsa, as that was where mom's flight was coming in. It's about six hours to Tulsa, driving. I had to stop every two hours, as the road begins to get blurry, and it becomes extremely difficult to focus on driving.

Driving conditions were great, it was a beautiful, clear day except for some odd segments where I was driving through valleys of light smoke past signs warning drivers not to drive into smoke. Suki protested a little bit at the beginning of the drive, but calmed down and shut up for the rest of the ride. A heavy blanket over the carrier to block all light seemed to help.

Mom called me to pick her up at the Tulsa airport as soon as I'd pulled into their cell phone lot. I liked the airport curbside pick up area, but I thought the rest of Tulsa was abysmally ugly, lacking either the older city charm of Oklahoma City or the small town charm of Ponca.

From there it was a slightly less than two hour drive into Ponca. Met Tracy and Danny there, and Bob and Velma joined us for dinner. Apparently tonight (monday) was the big dinner night out for Ponca. The first place we went was closed. The second place, Enriques, was jam packed with a 45 minute wait. We finally settled on Chili's which also had a 45 minute wait.

Now I'm pretty wiped out- its been pretty much the first time this semester that I'm actually going to be able to take a break. 

Dec 18, 2010


Around 11:40 at night thursday (still in studio), I was having an online discussion with my project mates, making last minute adjustments to our project, when I remembered that Tron:Legacy was opening the next day, I quickly found out that it was opening at midnight at a nearby movie theater, so I dashed over to Saori's desk and asked her if she wanted to go, and she jumped up and said definately yes, so we rushed around to shut down and lock up our computers (of course, Saori's computer decided that that moment was the ideal time to install updates) so we had to wait around for that. We rushed downstairs and sped off to the movie theater, reportedly one of the oldest in St.Louis, a twin screen affair. I dropped Saori off and went to hunt down parking.

Unfortunately, I hit two red lights on back streets which each light had a five minute wait. I couldn't believe it. I was dying. No traffic, the clock reading 12:01, and the light stubbornly red. But I finally found parking, dashed and slid to the theater, and it wasn't even that crowded. There was a crowd, but it was a big theater, tons of seating. We grabbed a fat tire beer (!) at the concessions and sat down for the show.

The movie was everything I was hoping for after reading lukewarm reviews. Not so great acting or story, but unbelievable graphics, design,  and music. Really cool. The bar scene alone is worth the price of admission, and you can tell Jeff Bridges is  having a great time. Runs a little long, but never really dragged.

For me, it was wonderful to share the experience of a really cool movie opening, middle of the night, at an old funky theater, with my saorichan.


Yesterday around 4pm, I handed in my last project, and I was done with my first semester of graduate school.  Even though I was done with my reviews wednesday, it took me until friday to finish the work for my other classes.

In undergraduate school, elective courses were relatively light; in graduate school, they were much more intense than I was expecting. They're no longer cranberry sauce for the turkey- they're their own courses.

Anyway, the turkey, studio, was served up tuesday and wednesday. I went ahead and printed friday evening, which turned out to be a good move as the printing situation got to be a little crazy as pretty much everyone in the school needs to print something for this week's reviews.

The format of the review was relatively simple. We reviewed in Stienberg Hall, which is a terrible place acoustically since all the noise gets bounced around. They had partitioned it into three review alleys where students could pin up. All 72 of us reviewed over two days, with three reviews going on simultaneously. This was kind of fun, since students could hop around to see projects they were interested in, or see friends presenting.

I presented the first day. I had four 3'x6' boards, a 1/32" scale model, and one 1/16" scale model. My reviewers included Don Koster and Andrew Cruse (who were our studio instructors), Donnie Schmidt (of Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects of LA), Bruce Lindsay (the dean of the architecture school),  Gia Daskalakis (another associate professor at Wash U), and another woman visiting critic whose name currently escapes me.

My verbal presentation went pretty poorly. I was visibly nervous and uncomfortable, and I don't think I set up my project well for defense. Let me clarify: my project does not look very exciting. I would say its very well designed, but by no means is it a landmark, iconic building. The successes of the building is less grand gestural, and I didn't really put that out there as a statement. Because of this, the first round of critque was essentially getting at "this is kind of a boring building." There was talk about "competence," and they did appreciate the full realization and believability of the floor plans, but they still described the building as "tired." They said it was too rigid, that the window patterns showed potential that hadn't been fully fleshed out, and that the pool was "whimsical" in a way that I had perhaps not intended- further that they would have liked to see more of those same kind of whimsical gestures in my project. So that was not good. I argued a bit with Donnie over the necessity of an iconic gestural building (its a housing project, where people come home) which is good, but I perhaps went a bit too far with it.

On the plus side, they liked my drawings, they said my plans were extremely clear and readable, and they were entranced with the character and vitality that my photoshopped renderings conveyed. Dean Lindsay said he really liked the project and was particularly impressed (although this could have been due to his happiness at seeing the success of a student presenting high levels of clarity and readability in documents).

So that was that, and I was done. We had another day of reviews where Saori presented (and her review went fabulously well, the kind of review where she had fun and her reviewers had fun), and then at the end of the second day they served everyone egg nog spiked with various quantities of spiced rum. That was a sweet gesture. There are a few perks to going to a private school, and alcohol on campus and at school events is definitely one of them.

The next two days I worked on both documenting my work over the semester, finishing a project for my Reconsidering the Margins project, and finishing up a project for Metabolic Cities where I made a suit filled with Archigram images. The suit was kind of fun although it came out kind of muddy. I was using an acetone transfer process. This is a pretty old-school technique and it requires some practice, but it can be pretty effective. These are the steps:

  1. Print out your image that you want to transfer.
  2. Find the oldest, crappiest, photocopier you can, and make a mirrored photocopy. (or you can print out a mirrored copy in the first place, if your photocopier doesn't mirror).
  3. Place the photocopy face down on the material you want to transfer the image to. 
  4. Splash or spray acetone (nail polish remover) on the sheet to make it really wet. You'll have to work fast as acetone evaporates and dries quickly.
  5. As soon as it is wet, quickly use a firm edged tool, like the side of a ruler or a hard rubber screen printing tool, and scrape the back of the paper the full length of the image. The idea is to push the image onto the material. 
  6. Immediately peel the photocopy sheet off the transfer material.
Just be careful spraying that stuff. I picked up a spray bottle and was using it to get an even wetness to the sheet, but the bottle warned against inhaling the spray or mist of the acetone. The material I was transferring it to was basically tyvek, or a kind of paper coverall used by people who need to spray paint or remove asbestos. Unfortunately, the transfer process does not lend itself well to varying shades of gray. Anyway, I finished the suit and turned it in, and that was that.

Dec 12, 2010

This building is protected by Batman

Its 11:08 pm and I'm in studio along with about half of the studio, and we're crunching for the final presentation coming up tuesday and wednesday (I go tuesday). My boards are printed and my 1/32" scale model is done, and I'm 75% done with a 1/16 scale model. So I'm in pretty good shape overall.

It started snowing last night, cold, hard, dry crystals. When we woke up this morning, the snow was still coming down and several inches deep. We elected to take mass transit to school instead of learning to drive on ice by the school of hard knocks. One of my studio mates spun out on her way here and did a 180, so I'm happy that we walked. Still a few inches of snow on the ground although it stopped about midday. Really cold weather next few days. 

The thesis students presented today and yesterday. The big name guest reviewers were Juhani Palasmaa, the Finnish architect and author, and (surprise!) Kenneth Frampton. No, not that one. The one who is among the most famous architecture critics in the world.

Anyway, here's a quick demo of how I do my renderings:

I started with this photo of the site: (the parking lot is my site, not the brick building).

and I used Revit software to model my building and make a rendered image of what it would look like at night from the same angle:

And then I combined the two, changing the day photo to a night image with lighting, added people, an overlaid image of falling snow at night, and snow on the ground to get this final image:

Dec 8, 2010

Tea and Cookies

My hands are red, chapped, and cracked. I don't know if this is from general tiredness, the dryness of the studio, or the relentless cold of this corner desk by the window.

It's been so cold lately, although I think my tolerance for it is increasing. Yesterday, I walked around in weather in the 20. Of course, I'm wearing a down coat and long underwear, while I was informed that I'm a bit premature for long underwear by Midwestern standards.

I'm pretty much done with my boards, which is good as I was planning on printing them tomorrow. The other students are just disgusted with me for being so far ahead. We have our review next Tuesday, which means I have about five days to build my two models. So I should be in pretty good shape.

When I say "boards," I'm really talking about posters. These will have our drawings, renderings, diagrams, plans, sections, all the flat stuff. The thing is, our boards are huge. Each board is three feet wide and about six feet long, and I have four of them. That's 72 square feet. That's about the same size as a small kitchen. I think that I will also need to print two of them in color, which at $1.50 a square foot, will run me $54, plus $36 for the black and white boards. Printing is expensive. On the flip side of that equation, I didn't have to buy a single textbook this semester. Architecture students tend to spend on materials and printing.

Christmas has definitely come to the studio. Several of our desks, including mine, are decked out with holiday lights, and a friend of ours brought in a dozen poinsettas which he gave out through the studio. (incidently, poinsettas are not toxic. Not to people, not to pets. I wouldn't make a salad out of them though.)

The GAC (graduate architecture council) hosted tea and cookies for everyone in studio at 9pm. They did it last night, tonight, and will do it tomorrow too. They will also provide us with lunch on the day of the review.

On to more work! Or perhaps home.

Dec 4, 2010

On Diplomacy

This whole Assange thing has been very interesting to watch unfold.

There is the smear campaign orchestrated by the world's governments to switch the attention from WikiLeaks to the founder, Assange. People are much easier to villianize than institutions or organizations.
The world's media were quick to splash "Rape" at first and "Sexual Assault" later in connection with Assange, but now they are toning it back without ever explicitly stating what he is wanted for.
What is Assage wanted for in Sweden? It's not rape. From what I've read, the two women in Sweden felt like he should have used a condom, and didn't take an STD test. Obviously this is a bad thing to do and I think he should be held accountable by those women if he really did wrong them. However, for this crime he was added to Interpol's Most Wanted list? How many Al-qaida operatives are still out there? How many traffickers in people or drugs? Point being, Assange exposed a lot of governments in their underwear, and this really pissed them off.

The funny thing is that the documents are not shocking at all. I actually found them encouraging as they actually sound like the US kind of has an awareness of what is going on in the world and not this blandly optimistic "US has productive talks with Pakistan" message common to the media covering international diplomacy.

I don't think this was a particularly useful cache of leaked documents- it basically amounted to the publishing of notes passed in class ("Ahamenajad has smelly feet"). I don't think the relationships between nations will be harmed- its like an ambassador farting loudly in a meeting with a national leader. Embarrassing and unprofessional, but both parties had an understanding of people as biological organisms. Of course after the leaks, some foreign government mouthpieces have to get up and bluster and do some podium pounding, but at the end of the day, they want to have normal relationships with the US. They already knew of what the US thinks about them, and everyone will be encouraged to quickly forget this gaffe. So I don't think the US is really concerned about this leak harming relationships or diplomacy.

It does definitely harm the capabilities of the US diplomatic intelligence gathering agencies, in all shades of gray. Sources were exposed. People will be more unwilling to speak as the trust of anonymenity is broken. Right now I would be there are secret witch-hunts going on in governments around the world to find the people who talked who were exposed. I could see this really angering the US.

But I think what made the US really angry is that it exposed government workings in a way that could not be controlled and was not intended for the public view. It is the suggestion that governments should be watched and should not consider themselves to be the be-all, end-all. The US government cannot abide WikiLeaks because it suggests that they can be held accountable.

Dec 3, 2010

17 days

Today is December third.

There are 6 days until I need to print my final presentation boards.
There are 11 days until my final studio presentation.
There are 16 days until all my projects from all my other classes are due.
There are 17 days until Suki and I go southwest a few hundred miles, and Saori goes northeast about six thousand miles.
There are 23 days until I drive back to St.Louis alone.
There are 24 days until I catch a flight for London.

Time is going to fly by. Which is why I'm glad we took time tonight to go grab a bite of good Mexican food in a tiny taqueria not too far from school in a former Taco Bell. Afterwards, we listened to Christmas music and drove to the grocery store where we picked up some $2 Christmas lights for our studio desks and some Christmas candy. It's 9:38 pm on a Friday night, and we'll probably be here for another few hours.

Medium is the message

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