Apr 29, 2012

tornadic saturday night

Yesterday, I worked until about 4 am, after getting up around 8 am the morning before. I did get about six hours of sleep this morning, coming into school around noon. I did get a lot of work done last night, but I decided to call it quits when I realized I was having a hard time forming coherent sentences.

Especially since I was handling medical syringes filled with carcinogenic and highly toxic acrylic solvent.

I was up that late to begin with because I'd drunk a Mellow Yellow around 11pm.

The thing was, Ryohei was leaving. He had been living in St.Louis for a few years studying and playing basketball for Fontebonne University ("F-U! F-U!" Dew hooted as we drove past the school), and working part time as a sushi chef. But really, he's a baller, and he was moving back to Japan since he graduated.

A party was in order, and he was a regular at Dew's parties, so we were all invited along. We got there late, toting a not terrible bottle of champagne, and Ryohei was already really animated. It was the typical goodbye party- Ryohei got way wasted, everyone did Sake bombs, and surreally, there was a donut eating contest and one of the participants was accused of cheating for the rest of the night. The four of us were the most sober ones there, and we left after about 40 minutes. Back to studio.

We did have a bit of excitement before that actually- we got slammed with a major storm. The sky which was gray all day grew pitch black, and then tornado weather green. We all went outside to see, at least until the golf-ball sized hail started. A few people's car windows were broken. Mine just suffered a few dings on the roof. There was a tornado warning and a vortex signature storm moved across a mile north of us, although there were no sightings. After a time, the storm cleared and the sky grew light into the dusk.

Apr 26, 2012

last few days

When we last left our exhausted hero, he was bent over his work in the early hours of the morning Tuesday. Apparently, our hero missed the memo that the final project is actually due after final reviews, just before grades are due.

I wouldn't call it a waste of time, lets just call it front-end loading for my work schedule.

My class was at 9, and we had a guest speaker from HOK come in and talked about King Abdullah University of Science of Technology, or KA-UST. There are literally dozens of King Abdullah centers/cities/universities, including
  • King Abdullah Center for Excellence
  • King Abdullah Special Operations Training Center 
  • King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center
  • King Abdullah International Medical Research Center
  • King Abdullah Center for Interpretive Dance (probably)
Anyway, I felt really bad about the whole thing because half the class, including myself, were falling asleep from exhaustion as he talked, and we're not a big class. Actually, there's six of us, including a student who's auditing the class. It just doesn't leave a favorable impression when I'm trying to not noticeably jerk myself awake.

After class, I went straight home and slept until 2, when Saori picked me up and took me back to school for the DT book presentation. This was the best part of DT, the moment where everyone puts their hand-made books out on display, and you get to look through everyone elses. It's also a very humbling moment, where I had previously considered my book to be perhaps slightly less profound and insightful than Palladio's Seven Books of Architecture and I realize that in comparison with my classmate's work, it's actually just below Uncle John's Bathroom Reader.

I can't even remember what I did for the rest of Tuesday. Around six, we were invited out for drinks by our DT instructor along with famed architect Craig Dykers of Snohetta. So we had a big informal gathering of Ben's DT section and Craig's studio up on the rooftop bar of Moonrise. It was an amazingly gorgeous early evening, with an unbelievable view from up there. It's astounding to realize how green St.Louis is out here, even in first ring suburbs. The sky was motley of orange and purple and blue, and the beer was expensive, although Ben bought us a round and I showed him my custom DT shirt.

One of my classmates brought her mom who was visiting to meet Craig and they chatted for awhile at the end of the table. It was a very pleasant surreal experience, and I look forward to going up for a drink again at the end of the semester. Still very short of sleep and not having eaten anything all day, two beers made me disinclined to return to studio, so I went home, did laundry, and napped.

Yesterday, I came into studio very late in the day, applied to a few firms, and built the styrene formwork for some concrete vaults I'm creating for my studio project. This took a long time. Saori and I finally called it quits and went to dinner at the Boba noodle house on Delmar (Soy Sauce Chicken- its cheap, its great, and there's a lot of it) and then drove around for awhile before heading back to the house and watching the end of Aliens.

This morning, neither of us had classes, so we went out on a morning dates, first stopping by World's Fair Donuts, a contender for the best donuts in St. Louis, and on to the Missouri Botanical Gardens for an early afternoon stroll.

Apr 24, 2012


I'm so tired. It's 8:42 AM. I got two hours of sleep yesterday afternoon around 5, and before that I had two hours of sleep in the early hours of the morning. Not even tea is helping at this point. I've been producing a lot of stuff- I printed my design thinking book saturday, so I'd have sunday to work towards a studio pin up, which I spent a long time working on. I'll take a nap after I finish this class at 9 where I present the final materials. (or a draft, if I get an extension).

Also, stay posted with my Tumblr updates! ----->

Apr 22, 2012

wasting time dot tumblr dot com

I've noticed a tendency of mine to get distracted and involve myself with distractions directly proportional to the importance of the work I should be working on. Since we are in the last two weeks before final review, I decided that I needed to have a tumblr dot com microblog account. This has been kind of fun, actually. So far I've just posted a few quotes from design thinking reviews, although I think I'll add studio-related material as time goes on. Since I tend to produce material for it in large bursts, I'm happy there's a queue I can dump stuff in that gets published more regularly rather than all at once. The site is here: www.stlsolarflare.tumblr.com and I also added a kind of feed on the right side of the page >

Apr 19, 2012

small successes, systemic failures

It's been a busy past few days with little sleep involved. Monday was practically an all-nighter as I prepared for the big design thinking presentation and book. Tuesday night was a celebratory night for all involved, capped with $1 taco tuesdays at Fuzzy's taco shop. (The beef tacos, however, did not fare so will with gastointestinal systems of my fellow celebrants). So tuesday night was basically off. Wednesday, all day I worked on revising my portfolio and submitting to a position in Boston, and the later half of the day until around 2 am, I worked on my grasshopper tower.

Grasshopper refers to a piece of parametric software which works with another 3D modeling program, Rhinoceros. The class I'm taking in it had it final presentation today, and I only found the final shape of the tower last night. So, this morning, early, but not that early, I rushed back to school and worked all day to map my component, learn Ecotect, figure out how to make my component respond to the ecotect solar exposure data to see how open each component should be, and the diagram, render, and lay out boards of all that work, plus everything else we did this semester. It was a lot of work, but I'm actually pretty happy with how it turned out. I think I had one of the better boards up on the wall (and probably one of the top four projects in our class of twelve.)

More importantly, it was the first time I had a building which was completely swoopy, curvilinear, and rendered using vray (thanks for the tutorial, Dew!) It will be happy in my portfolio which is severely lacking in swoopy forms which are so popular now.

Job hunting is not going well. I've applied to less than ten firms, and I should probably have applied to at least three times that by now. Word on the street is the major firms have already made their summer hiring decisions, and I so far only one firm has given me a rejection letter (all the others are assumed rejections). Time to hit the phonebook and see who's in town.

Or maybe I'll go teach Chinese in Shanghai (right).

Apr 18, 2012

Design thinking

Yesterday we presented our design thinking projects in five slides at our final review for that class. I was really pretty happy with how mine turned out in the end. I got a lot of really quizzical stares, and one of the professors described it as really bizzare and strange and interesting. So I'm really happy, since I really did want to do a project that is like that. He pulled me aside in the hall later, and told me that I should make the project really over the top, and research 19th century scientific instruments. Maybe it will make more sense if you read my design thinking book:

Apr 14, 2012

The Avalanche of Architecture School

A semester at graduate architecture school is a bit like skiing an avalanche. You start fresh, at the top of the mountain, skiing along without much direction, it's kind of light and fun, and you're filled with the rush and anticipation of a killer ride down.

But as you progress down the mountain face, you realize that the top sheet is beginning to slide. You can see than avalanche is forming, you pick up the pace. The skiing becomes more focused, more intense. As the snow moves beneath your skis your heart begins to race as you're nimbly keeping ahead of the cusp of the avalanche, but the ocean of snow is building up speed and power. Any mistake here will set you back considerably, but you're doing it, surfing the edge of disaster, a toehold of control over the situation.

At a certain point, however, everything moves too fast, you miss a turn, your ski wobbles, you fall behind and then you're IN the avalanche, picked up by its power and speed, and you're struggling to simply stay upright, with barely any control over your work, you're just trying to desperately get it out and get through, stay vertical, and stay as on top as possible.

Some students simply get buried and left behind, the ones that don't make it. Master skiiers always get caught in the avalanche, but their skills and experience keep them on top of the churning vortex, always moving forward, reading the disaster as it unfolds, avoiding the rocks and trees, and when the whole thing hits the valley floor, they're the ones who nimbly slide to a stop in style, not even their googles askew. Most students fall somewhere between, the weaker skiiers crashing into review a scattered snowball of hats and renderings and skis and drawings smashed into the pin up wall.

Right now, I'm skirting the edge of the avalanche. It will overtake me, but for now, I'm working hard to make sure that when it hits, I'll be in good shape to ride it out.

Apr 12, 2012

The Mysterious Death Certificate of Sunny Sheu

So there's this story out about an activist who is mysteriously found dead after allegedly receiving death threats from a NY supreme court judge whom the activist claimed he had some dirt on. One version of the story here:

There's not a lot of coverage- its mostly sensationalist blog postings about it, and a few fringe websites.

On the face of it, it seems unlikely that a state supreme court judge would issue death threats, and put out a hit on someone, then conspire with the aid of the NYPD to cover up the whole thing. It's not because I wouldn't put it past judges or the NYPD to kill someone and cover it up, but as a conspiracy the whole thing is flaky.

I started with the alleged New York City Death Certificate provided by a blog:
This is a really shady document, and I'm pretty satisfied that the whole thing was made on someone's computer. Take a look: 
  1. If you look at the form, you can tell there was large diagonal writing across it which was erased, especially noticeable at the bottom left of the top form. Actually, most of the spaces with the typed writing look like it had original writing which was then erased. Look at the line provided for the writing.
  2. The form is filled out in printed text. (a) All the other certificate of death forms I've found online are filled out by hand or typed, not printed, and (b) the boxes are hand checked, which is strange, because if you're going to generate this form on the computer, why print it, and hand check the boxes?
  3. The medical examiner's signature is also printed text in a fancy script. Why isn't it a real signature? Especially if you're going to hand check the boxes anyway. 
  4. The "Signature Electronically Authenticated" seems like it was added later to make scripted signature more legit, but it's out of place because (a) you can't electronically authenticate a signature, (b) the font is different from the rest of the form (look at the lowercase a, width of the e, and the crossbar of the t), and (c) on the form, its just squeezed in there, cramming out the line below.
  5. The bottom form says the body was examined at the "Queens Medical Examiner Office" and died at "New York Medical Center Queens." First, there is no "Queens Medical Examiner Office"; there's an office of Chief Medical Examiner with a branch in Queens General Hospital. It seems strange that a medical examiner would move a body from one hospital to another to decide if the person was dead or fill out the form. 
For me, the computer printing and the erased text is pretty damning. If this document is forged, then it leads me to question the whole story. I don't know how this guy died, but someone is pushing an agenda.

Apr 8, 2012

Easter Sunday

Bloomington Indiana, is possibly the least accessible city I've ever been to in the US. Coming from Indianapolis, you're fine and its freeway all the way down, but coming from any other direction, you're looking at an hour of winding, two lane country roads through farms and towns so small that when your back tires are entering, your front tires are leaving. It was a lovely time to be driving at dusk, with an amazing and huge full moon right at the horizon, like a giant orange balloon, but the deer nearly killed me.

I was cruising along around 60 miles an hour, when out of nowhere, this deer leaps out of the hedges on the side of the road and runs right in front of me. I swerve all the way into the oncoming traffic lane and just miss that stupid creature by a few feet, tires squealing as I weave the car back to my lane. Know what the most dangerous animal is in the US? Deer. They kill way more people via car crashes than boars, bears, pumas, coyotes, or sharks. 

I brought Tay a St. Louis care package- sausage, Shlafly beer, and his favorite, gooey butter cookies, so he was very happy to get these birthday presents as well as my birthday presence. His law school friends were also impressed I made the trek down. 

We left tay's place and moved on to another house party which was slightly larger, and then onto a much larger house party. Apparently, all the 1Ls had just handed in a major memo so they were in major party mode. After the house party, we hit a few bars, which really reminded me of ASUland. Overpriced near-beers like MillerLite on tap, thumping music, younger college crowds. 

Next morning we had a hangover breakfast, took a walk through the park near Tay's apartment, and I headed back to St. Louis. Sal treated us to a delicious cajun dinner at Riverbend bar, and then we hit up Beale on Broadway for some smoking blues with Marquis Knox, a 21 year old blues virtuoso. Good times.

This morning, we enjoyed a farewell breakfast in CWE with Sal, and and he headed off to Kansas City. Meanwhile, we headed back to studio and I did my taxes and am attempting to make some headway with my much neglected studio work.

Apr 6, 2012

So it goes

An old college friend from ASU, Sal, surprised us with a visit this week. He's driving cross country after picking up his brother's car in Miami, Florida, and driving it back across the US, so he's been bivouacking on the couch for a few days.

School goes and goes. Money runs short. I had to use a Christmas gift card to pay for printing costs. Falling behind in studio, but not irreparably so [my professor isn't concerned. yet.] , but then my project seems lack a certain edge that I'm looking for. Design thinking is great. Our review last tuesday went really well. I've ended up with something that could be really fun and interesting. Our landscape class is going to Chicago next week, so I booked a roundtrip megabus. Didn't get the $1 fare, but RT from STL was $50, a hundred dollars cheaper than the cheapest airline flight, and it will drop me at the central station of both cities. NEXT tuesday.

Yesterday, I went to the STL Earth Day Symposium. Shook some hands, handed out some buisiness cards. Mostly a crowd of engineers and public servants since the focus of the symposium was runoff, best management practices with water, green roofs, green corridors, and sustainable development. Student price was $30, but that included a 4gig flash drive with GIS environmental information for the region, which is gold. And lunch. Talked to a few people about filtration and water quality testing since it concerns my project. Seems they've heard about residual pharmaceuticals and artificial estrogen in the water, but at this point, nobody's interested in it or interested in paying for it. 

Two days ago, took Sal out for a drink in the central west end. At Lleweyns, an Irishish pub with a nice beer garden, I got a Left hand nitro milk stout, which is still being rolled out across the US. The bubbles on this one actually go down. I got one just to see how it worked. It really does go down like some kind of Willy Wonka invention. I'm not a huge fan of stouts but this one was pretty good. 

Going to make the drive up to Bloomington [on new tires] tonight for Tay's birthday, and come back tomorrow afternoon. 

Apr 4, 2012


Two things that occurred to me recently:

The trend of increasing government surveillance and control over its own populations- unmanned aerial drones are currently in use in the US, for example- for reasons 'homeland security' plus rather hysterical levels of terrorism related security. The TSA, for example, has continuously failed to stop 7 out of 10 weapons brought through screenings in testings, and the risk of getting cancer from the backscatter scanners is the same as dying in a terrorist attack.

We have only begun to study the impact of antibiotics use in people, and the completely unregulated use of antibiotics in livestock. Throw in the fact that antibiotics are widely available without perscription outside the US, and there is little surprise that we have seen the development and rise of common diseases which are increasingly resistant to antibiotics. There are now strains of diseases which have no effective antibiotic. What this means is that even though medical science can now replace your heart with a pump and regrow your liver, you could be killed by something that doctors in the 1950's could treat in a week with penicillin.

So if global pandemics of multidrug resistant disease breakout, all the infrastructure which was quietly built up to combat 'terrorism' and control populations will instantly flip around and be used for contagion control.

Apr 3, 2012

Design thinking quotes

We had one of our last Design Thinking pinups today. Most of the following top quotes are from the two reviewing professors. DT is the most esoteric, bizzare class I think I've ever had. The whole experience has been really surreal, like when you've been drinking steadily and then quit, and then you're in this really strange place- not super drunk anymore, but just really mellowed out. Actually, students who were in it last year told me that the best thing is to just roll with it, don't fight it, let it take you to strange places. Don't be afraid if you don't really know what you're doing. It's the students who fight it for control, who get scared and panic, who stress out about it, who really have the hardest time with it.

Actually, when you get to be as sleep deprived, you are kind of stoned on top of everything else. There's actually something somewhat productive if you're careful with sleep deprivation. When you get more tired and you're forcing yourself to stay awake, your critical capacity goes down. You just want to get something on paper or a model built so you can be done. It's a moment when your intuition is able to push through and guide your hands. In the best case, the tiredness lets you overcome a self-critical block that is keeping you from pushing a design further. In the worst, you produce terrible crap. Either way, its production.

Anyway, on to the quotes!
"...executions, what have you." 
"I've decided to combine a grocery store, a library, and a black box theater."
"I could squash you. So imagine." 
"That's me. I'm the dangler."
"These are big questions: 'what is architecture?' Are you going to tell us?"
"I can drive through Brookstone."
"So what is the pedestrian doing down here?"
"What's funny about a clown?"
"I just want to fill a mall with cars."
"Hi, my name is Helena and I'm interested in breaking out of the HVAC box we're in."
"Are we going to get to the part about drugs and sex?"
"We keep moving foward....together."
"Who's moving forward?"
"Everybody. With technology."
"We used to be smarter."
"You have to neutralize people's conscious minds."
"This is an impressive amount of a lot of stuff coming out of your head."
"If you don't burn down the prairie, you don't get a better prairie."
"The rule of selling is that once you've sold it, you stop selling it."

Apr 2, 2012


Too busy. we're having a major DT pin up tomorrow, and I'm operating on about three hours of sleep from last night, five hours from then night before, and five hours from the night before. On the flip side, my DT instructor is pretty happy with where I'm at and he's really excited about the project.

Heat has come to St.Louis- today's high was in the 90s. It's supposed to drop 30 degrees tomorrow, though. So a temporary summer blast goes back to a unseasonably warm spring. I've got a blanket in studio now for taking naps outside on the shade on the grass behind the building. The high temperatures have made everything confused- plants, trees, squirrels. If this is a taste of summer, its going to be a hellacious summer here.

My allergies are going nuts.

This weekend went off pretty well- I took a bunch of students on a van tour of the city and we ended up at the arch. This was our route, which is a good way of showing some of the highlights of the city in under an hour.

View Larger Map

This route, for example, starts at (A) Washington University campus, meanders through forest park passing by (B) the St.Louis Art Museum, dips back up to the beautiful mansions along Lindell and with a little detour through a very exclusive and beautiful private neighborhood of mansions before continuing up Euclid (C) in central west end, then following Washington Ave towards the river, passing by the Contemporary Art Museum, the Ando-designed Pulitzer musuem (D), Grand Center, Urban Chestnut Brewery, through Locust street entertainment district, and finally ending at the arch grounds.

I think I did pretty well with my minivan. Nobody died, we got everyone to the airport on time, and people seemed to enjoy themselves. So with that, my tour of duty with the open house ended.

Dew, Chuck, Saori, and I went to Boba noodles last night. This is an amazing place. The main thing they do is sell boba tea in a variety of flavors and types (their hot ginger milk tea is phenomenal) but they're also surprisingly good and cheap for food- The beef noodle soup and the soy sauce chicken are fantastic, huge portions, and taste surprisingly authentic for such a poppy place.

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