Rabu, 31 Januari 2007

0 Oxygen House

[Image: Douglas Darden, the Oxygen House; courtesy of the Darden Estate, via Part].

While writing the previous post, I stumbled across a project called the Oxygen House, by Douglas Darden.

[Images: Douglas Darden, the Oxygen House; courtesy of the Darden Estate, via Part].

In an otherwise almost unreadable essay, we learn that Darden, "a young and very talented architect, designed the house for Burnden Abraham, a disabled signalman for the Southern Pacific railroad, on a site near Frenchman's Bend in rural northern Mississippi. The drawings were completed in 1998. Abraham died shortly after the footings for the house were poured. The construction of the house was abandoned."

[Images: Douglas Darden, the Oxygen House; courtesy of the Darden Estate, via Part].

Intriguingly, the client was actually "confined to an oxygen tent because of disabling chest injuries":
    Those injuries were caused by the derailment of a Southern Pacific train on precisely the spot that was later intended as the site for his house. The house he wanted was to be his oxygen house: a shelter and setting that would sustain and support his life. It was to be, quite literally, the place that "held" his breath and gave him life.
Had the client lived to see the construction of his house, ironically he intended to die in it; the structure would then have been "transformed into his sepulcher and his tomb."

[Images: Douglas Darden, the Oxygen House; courtesy of the Darden Estate, via Part].

The client, however, is a fictional construct: Darden invented the client based on a passage from William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying – a novel that presents us with "the death of Addie Bundren," as well as "the saga of her burial."
Darden's fake client is, of course, named Burnden Abraham.
From the essay: "If one reads the first chapter of As I Lay Dying carefully, and then reads the [client's letter to the architect] attentively, one cannot help but be struck by the correspondences and analogies that appear. Abraham's letter – or rather Abraham's letter as Douglas Darden writes it – takes the first chapter of Faulkner's novel, isolates, and subtly changes some of its phrases. It then weaves them back together" to form the client's approach to the architect.

(Note: This post updated on February 2nd, thanks to a tip from David Maisel).

0 Man preps for big night; thins air in house

[Images: The "Colorado Mountain Room" and other products offered by Colorado Altitude Training].

According to Sports Illustrated, Gilbert Arenas of the NBA has "hired a company to reduce the oxygen content in his house." This way he can "train under high-altitude conditions similar to those in Colorado."
Interviewed by a blog at the Washington Post, Arenas then claimed "that 'at least 14 players' have contacted him about having the same simulated conditions" installed; this includes "the whole Chicago Bulls team," who now want "to get that in their homes."
But ESPN's headline says it best: "Arenas sorry for Team USA vent; thins air in house."
So what I want to know is: if you do this to someone's house without them knowing, is that illegal – and what would such a crime be called?

(Thanks, Dad! See also Hyperoxic architecture).

Selasa, 30 Januari 2007

0 Of brick pits, bridges, and a building made from lawns

Marcus Trimble, of gravestmor, has a cool little article in the new issue of Mark Magazine, about the work of Sydney's Durbach Block Architects; a few of the projects he covers deserve a second look.
First, there's the abandoned "brick pit" last seen in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, in which Mad Max battled Master Blaster in a huge cage full of chainsaws... Apparently that old quarry has been transformed by Durbach Block into a kind of ecological scenic zone.

[Images: The Brick Pit Ring by Durbach Block Architects].

This "disused brick pit in amongst the abattoirs and toxic dumps of Homebush Bay, Sydney," Marcus writes, now houses "a perfect circle set propped over the excavated site. It is set tangential to the ragged edge of the brick pit and its circumference passes through the exact centre line of the pit." Further, "small viewing platforms poke outside the ring" – so you can walk around in colorful circles and look down into the pit, recalling Mad Max in his glory days...
Personally, I think Durbach Block should be hired to build tens of thousands of these things, spanning whole continental interiors, framing canyons and deserts and inland seas – or perhaps a labyrinth of pedestrian bridges should come to link the Great Lakes: vast, thousand-miles stretches of raised platforms in every color, forming stilted whorls of roofless corridors, full of ramps and platforms and spiraling rings, making lacework of the horizon.
Marcus then goes on to explore the "charged geography" of Sydney's coast, where the Holman House now stands: "The house is built out of a series of curves set in opposition to one another. A bent and split beam reaches out in an improbable cantilever to the north and south before folding in on itself to capture a small piece of outdoor space that steps down to the pool below. These arcing spaces contain the living areas of the house."

[Image: A room inside the Holman House, Sydney, by Durbach Block Architects].

From there we meet a structure that is "as much a lawn as a building": it's Commonwealth Place in Canberra.
"On either side of the [lawn-building's] axis," we read, "the ground is peeled up to create an inverted mound. Beneath these wings are placed various functions, currently a restaurant and an art gallery."
So you are dining within a new and artificial surface for the earth.

[Image: Commonwealth Place by Durbach Block Architects – the hot air balloon, alas, is not a permanent part of the structure].

Finally, whilst clicking around Durbach Block's website, I came across these Amenities Buildings, built within the Sydney Olympic Park

[Images: The Sydney Amenities Buildings by Durbach Block Architects].

– and I think they're gorgeous. They also remind me (very vaguely) of the work of Theo Jansen.
In any case, if you see a copy of Mark Magazine lying around somewhere, be sure to check it out.

0 Business Jargon Dictionary

I realized that I was out of wiggle room at my job the other day when my manager pulled me aside to give me a blow by blow about getting ducks in a row, avoiding the aho, and my favorite topic of being a team player. Being completely interested in nothing more than assmosis, I listened.

After an hour I quickly learned that because I handle more issues than anyone, I believe that I've become the one man show of the IT group. While I don't totally agree, I have to ask, " Why would I want to talk to anyone?" I am there to collect a paycheck, not cross sabers. However, it was made clear that if I don't become more of a team player. I will become a payroll orphan and I really can't afford that.

We agreed that I would strap it on for a while to see if I can perform better and enjoy my job by helping others and taking the blinders off. We will see how it goes.


To learn how to use the vocabulary of your managers, visit the Ridiculous Business Jargon dictionary at The OfficeLife.com.

photo: Dazden on Flickr

0 Find and Review Kid-Friendly Establishments

I received an email from Tim Ludwig regarding a project he and and his wife embarked on over a year ago. His project was to create a site that allowed parents from across the country to list and review child-friendly locations, restaurants, and activities. After many hours the husband and wife team has launched Parentography.
Parents can share stories, photos, excursion ideas, ratings and reviews on all sorts of family-friendly places and activities. They can search for things to do by location, season, children's age and other important factors. Parents can comment on other parents' ideas and suggestions, look up the profiles of the parents who posted each review or excursion to learn more about them and their families, and use the interactive map to discover new adventures right under their noses.

The site provides a quick, free way to come up with new places to take your kid. As I parent of two, this is huge because kids get bored fast and trips to the library quickly lose their luster. Parentography accommodates for activities within all budgets so whether you are interested in Disney Cruises or local ice skating rinks, you'll have something to read.

Remember, Parentography just got started and a resource like this needs an active community. Do not be afraid to contribute and add your favorite kid-friendly activity.

Senin, 29 Januari 2007

0 Architecture and Climate Change: An Interview with Ed Mazria

[Image: (Right) Ed Mazria, photographed by Doug Hoeschler for Metropolis].

Last year, Ed Mazria and his New Mexico-based non-profit organization, Architecture 2030, revealed that architecture – or the building sector, more generally – is the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions, worldwide.
To help prevent "catastrophic" climate change, then, the building sector must become carbon neutral. Reaching that state before the year 2030 is what Mazria has dubbed the 2030 Challenge.
In an effort to speed things along, Mazria will be co-hosting an event, on February 20th, called the 2010 Imperative. This will be a "global emergency teach-in" broadcast live on the web from New York City. The 2010 Imperative – discussed in more detail, below – has been specifically organized around the idea that "ecological literacy [must] become a central tenet of design education," and that "a major transformation of the academic design community must begin today."
I recently spoke to Mazria about climate change, sustainable design, and carbon neutrality; about the present state, and future direction, of architectural education; about suburban development, Wal-Mart, and SUVs; and about the 2030 Challenge itself.
What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation.

• • •

BLDGBLOG: First, how did you choose the specific targets of the 2030 Challenge?

Ed Mazria: Well, let's see. The way we developed the 2030 Challenge was by working backward from the greenhouse gas emissions reductions that scientists were telling us we needed to reach by 2050. Working backwards from those reductions, and looking at, specifically, the building sector – which is responsible for about half of all emissions – you can see what we need to do today. You can see the targets that we need to reach so we can avoid hitting what the scientists have called catastrophic climate change.

If you do that, you see that we need an immediate, 50% reduction in fossil fuel, greenhouse gas-emitting energy in all new building construction. And since we renovate about as much as we build new, we need a 50% reduction in renovation, as well. If you then increase that reduction by 10% every five years – so that by 2030 all new buildings use no greenhouse gas-emitting fossil fuel energy to operate – then you reach a state that's called carbon neutral. And you get there by 2030. That way we meet the targets that climate scientists have set out for us.

That’s how we came up with the 2030 Challenge – meaning a 50% reduction today, and going to carbon neutral by 2030.

[Image: A chart of Architecture 2030's goals; via Metropolis. Graphic also available as a PDF].

BLDGBLOG: When you say that the building sector is responsible for half of all greenhouse gas emissions, though, do you mean that in a direct or an indirect sense? Because surely houses aren't just sitting there emitting carbon dioxide all day – it’s the power plants that those houses are connected to.

Mazria: It's direct. The number is actually 48% of total US energy consumption that can be attributed to the building sector, most of which – 40% of total consumption – can be attributed just to building operations. That's heating, lighting, cooling, and hot water. There are others – running pumps and things like that. But 40% of total US energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed just to building operations.

BLDGBLOG: What’s the other 8%?

Mazria: The other 8% is greenhouse gas emissions released in producing the materials for buildings – materials that architects can specify – as well as during the construction process itself.

But the major part, you see – 40% – is design. Every time we design a building, we set up its energy consumption pattern and its greenhouse gas emissions pattern for the next 50-100 years. That's why the building sector and the architecture sector is so critical. It takes a long time to turn over – whereas the transportation sector, on wheels, in this country, turns over once every twelve years.

[Image: "U.S. Energy Consumption by Sector. A reorganization of existing data – combining the energy required to run residential, commercial, and industrial buildings along with the embodied energy of industry-produced materials like carpet, tile, and hardware – exposes architecture as the hidden polluter." Graphic by Criswell Lappin, via Metropolis].

BLDGBLOG: Speaking of which, you've pointed out elsewhere that SUVs only represent about 3% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the US – yet they receive the brunt of the media's attention and anger. The real culprit is wastefully designed architecture.

Mazria: People must remember, though, that this doesn’t let the US automobile industry off the hook! Cars and SUVs are still part of the problem – and we need to attack that part of the problem.

And there are solutions. One of the solutions, for example, is to use plug-in hybrid flex-fuel technology. Plug-in meaning you can collect energy on your rooftop, with photovoltaic cells, and then plug your car into a battery at night, and drive 30-50 miles on a charge. Then you can use hybrid technology to get incredible miles. Then you can use flex-fuel: you put high-cellulose alcohol or ethanol into the tank, rather than fossil fuels. So there are solutions in that sector.

BLDGBLOG: It seems like the 2030 Challenge has met with a lot of enthusiasm from both the American Institute of Architects and the US Conference of Mayors. Is that the case, or were you hoping for a better response?

Mazria: The response was immediate, and very gratifying. Right when we issued the challenge, in January of 2006, the American Institute of Architects adopted it for all its 78,000 members. That did two things. One, it got the wheels turning within the architecture and building sector to figure out how to meet the Challenge. Two, it began getting resources and information to architects and to designers about how to change course.

Just as important, the US Conference of Mayors then adopted the 2030 Challenge in a resolution that was passed at their annual convention. That was passed unanimously. The Challenge was adopted for all buildings in all cities. That's very important.

[Image: The interior of Ed Mazria's New Mexico home, designed by Mazria's own firm; photographed by Doug Hoeschler for Metropolis. "Masonry walls and floors in the dining and living areas absorb heat and provide cool interior surfaces in summer and warmth in the winter," we read].

BLDGBLOG: As far as implementing the Challenge goes, is that as simple as sending out a new pamphlet to housing contractors that explains how they can change their building techniques? Or is it as complex as starting whole new university degrees?

Mazria: Well, first you have to inform. People really have to be aware of this issue. Universities don't really understand their role in this whole situation. So the first step is to inform – and we've actually gone a long way in that. We’ve done a lot of magazine articles and other publications; we've done public speaking; and there’s also our website – so we’re making an impact.

What we're really doing is changing the conversation. Through changing – or expanding – the conversation, we've been able to issue the 2030 Challenge. We would not have been able to issue that had we not changed the conversation. So we issued the Challenge, which was picked up by the profession and then by the cities, and that was absolutely critical.

Now businesses are picking it up. For instance, at the same time that we were issuing the Challenge, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development came out with a call for carbon neutral buildings by 2050. So we've asked the AIA to begin a dialogue with them to get that done by 2030, instead.

Also, since that time, I gave a talk at a conference hosted by the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives. ICLEI's membership consists of about 475 cities worldwide. It's kind of a global counterpart to the US Conference of Mayors – though many cities in the US are members. At the end of that conference, they adopted the 2030 Challenge. They’re now bringing it up with their global Board of Directors, to discuss adopting the Challenge worldwide. Actually, adopted is not the right word – they incorporated the Challenge into their targets.

BLDGBLOG: Do you think the speed with which the Challenge has been adopted reflects a kind of embarrassment over the failure of the Kyoto Protocol?

Mazria: That's possible. It's also now more accepted that the science is firm; people are accepting that the debate is essentially over, and that we must move from debate to action. But scientists have given us a very, very small window of opportunity here. We have essentially ten years to begin to get this situation under control. Otherwise we'll hit tipping points beyond which there will be very little anyone can do to influence things. So there's a new sense of urgency.

What has been lacking so far are specifics on how to attack the problem. Most initiatives are general, without real teeth behind them, saying that we're going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by this much, by this date. But I think that the people who have adopted these initiatives are now looking for ways to implement them, to meet their own targets.

The 2030 Challenge gives them a very specific way to do this – and I think that’s the main reason why this has taken hold as quickly as it has.

BLDGBLOG: In the meantime, you've seen corporations like Wal-Mart try to reinvent themselves as pro-green, pro-sustainability firms, because they've seen that there is a profit motive. It makes sense for the environment – but it also makes sense for shareholders. The shift isn't necessarily altruistic.

Mazria: I think it's going mainstream for a number of reasons. One of the reasons is what we just talked about: the urgency of the issue. There are many people out there with a conscience, and they think about the future rather than just their own immediate needs. They think about their children and their grandchildren. I think that's moving some of this.

But I think you're right: I think another part of this is essentially self-serving, that going green may give you a leg up on the competition. It may save you money. It may enhance your image in the community, which means your business can maneuver with more ease and fewer restrictions.

The real point is: whatever the motivation, it's going in the right direction.

[Image: Skylit gymnasium in Genoveva Chavez Community Center, Santa Fe; designed by Mazria Inc. Photo by Robert Reck, via Metropolis].

BLDGBLOG: So what roles do the architecture and design schools play in all this?

Mazria: An AIA COTE report came out last year, called Ecology and Design. It was a year-plus long study by a panel of AIA COTE members. Every school should read this.

From page 43: "Schools and teachers are discovering and creating new ways to incorporate sustainability into studios and other coursework. There appears to be more out there than there was 5 or 10 years ago and the efforts are deeper, more layered, and more complex." But this next part is what’s important: "But our sample includes not a single example where the issues have informed a true transformation of the core curriculum. As promising as many of the courses are, it must be said that sustainable design remains a fringe activity in the schools."

It gets worse:
Many of the most highly rated architecture schools show little interest in sustainable design, according to our research. The Ivy League schools, which consistently draw top applicants, have not made a noticeable effort to incorporate environmental strategies into their coursework. With few exceptions – notably California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo, our top winner – the same may be said of all the programs listed in the 2005 Design Intelligence ranking of top schools. The implication is that ecology is not considered a design agenda but, rather, an ethical or technical concern. If the best programs, instructors, and students do not embrace ecology as an inspiration for good design, what chance does this endeavor have to transform the industry?
Now I want to turn to Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, their "top winner." This is Cal Poly: "the most significant drawback of the Sustainable Environments program is the fact that it is an elective minor and not an integral part of the core curriculum. Though enrollment in program grows every year, currently only about 20 percent of CAED students take part." Now, listen to this: "Dean Jones, who is new to the school, sees the Sustainable Environments minor as a pilot program for the entire department: 'It is a long-term goal to integrate this kind of approach within the core curriculum.'" Long-term.

You have ten years basically to change course across the entire building sector, and the top-ranking ecological design program has a sustainable development minor. The top school. And it's a long-term goal for them. So you get the picture.

School's must transform – and they must transform immediately. So we've organized what we term the 2010 Imperative. That will explain to all the schools what we think needs to be done today, immediately, as well as beginning with the next school year – and, to complete the process, what needs to be done by 2010.

By 2010 we're looking at total ecological literacy in architectural education.

BLDGBLOG: The 2010 Imperative is a "global emergency teach-in" scheduled to occur in about three weeks' time. Could you tell me a little bit more about that?

Mazria: The teach-in will happen on February 20th. It will be a live webcast from the New York Academy of Sciences, from 12-noon to 3:30. It will have four speakers: Dr. James Hansen of NASA will talk about the science and the implications of global warming, and the urgency for action. I'll talk about the building sector and what we need to do – and why – and how education is a critical piece of this whole thing. Susan Szenasy will do the introductions, and talk about all the design disciplines. She'll also moderate the panel at the end. And Chris Luebkeman will give a talk called "Doing Is Believing" – which is pretty interesting – and he'll talk about Arup's projects all over the world. That should take about an hour and a half.

Then it will be open to questions and answers – and general discussion – from people typing-in, live, from anywhere in the world. So it's as participatory as we can get. We'll also have a live audience of about 300-plus, made up of people from the nine New York City-area design schools.

BLDGBLOG: Have universities and institutions outside of New York signed up to participate?

Mazria: The teach-in has been supported by the ACSA, the AIA Committee on the Environment, the US Green Building Council, and a lot of other schools. We've received emails now – probably about 15,000 – from people saying that they’re going to log on. We've got schools that are going to be canceling classes that day and creating full-day events around the teach-in – so it's very exciting. We're getting responses from everywhere: Berkeley, Harvard, Cal-Poly-San Luis Obispo, UW-Milwaukee. 50 to 100 come in a day, including practitioners and architecture offices that are going to get their whole office to participate. Those offices will also get continuing education credits for their architects.

You know, you can give a lecture to 1000 people, or to 500 people, or to 300 people – but this way you're talking to tens of thousands of people, in one day. It's a really good way to use the technology to get the word out.

BLDGBLOG: Some of these changes are going to require a pretty major conceptual shift, I think. You're moving from an artistic or historical approach to architecture – where architecture is something of an expressive design medium – and you're going to an approach that treats the built environment as something whose effect is scientifically measurable. Ecologically speaking, a design can literally be good or bad, no matter what it looks like, or whether or not the client likes it. Do you see this as a possible issue down the road?

Mazria: I think you can incorporate both personal expression and aesthetics into ecological literacy. Ecological literacy just gives you another tool with which to design. Architecture is not just pure sculpture; it's not just pure function; it's not just pure performance – it's all of those. And so what must be added and integrated into the design curriculum is this notion of ecological literacy. You cannot design anymore without being literate in this area – otherwise you're doing more harm than good.

BLDGBLOG: Beyond the teach-in, how do you anticipate getting this message into the schools and design offices? Is this a question of issuing textbooks and PDFs, or just organizing more events?

Mazria: You're not going to do it one school at a time. There are too many schools. You have hundreds of thousands of students being educated today, and they are not fully ecologically literate. They don't have a total grasp of the global situation we're facing, and what must happen next. And it's not just the students – their instructors aren't fully aware of this, either.

So we propose to do this in two ways. One is an immediate method, and one is a short-term method. The immediate method is well-defined: we will address every design school in the world, globally, and we will ask every instructor to add one sentence to every problem that they issue in their design studios. That's all we're asking them to do. We're not asking them to change the assignments – we're asking them to add one sentence.

That sentence is: “That the project be designed to engage the environment in a way that dramatically reduces or eliminates the need for fossil fuels.”

This will set off a chain reaction, globally, throughout the student population. Because what the students will do at the outset of a new assignment is they will research the issue. They'll then come back to the class with all the information they can find – and all the information, by the way, is available on the internet. They have access very, very quickly to this information. They'll then bring everyone else in that class, including the instructor, up to speed on the issues, the design strategies, and the technologies that are available and part of the design palette. Out of that, universities and professional studios will become instruments for transforming design.

If you bring creative problem-solving to the issue, many, many different ways of addressing the problem will come about – in ways we can't even imagine. And that's the beauty of making this change immediately.

We can then work on a systematic approach, between 2007 and 2010, to bring true ecological literacy to all the design schools.

[Image: Materials Testing Facility, Vancouver, designed by Busby Perkins + Will. The design "incorporates recycled and reused materials extensively throughout the building," and other "sustainable ('green') building design concepts, such as natural ventilation and solar shading have also been utilized." Via Architecture 2030].

BLDGBLOG: In that same time period, do you plan to approach large-scale home developers, like Toll Brothers or KB Home, to inspire environmental change on a larger and more immediate scale?

Mazria: You have to remember that we’re a very small organization! [laughs] I think, though, that a growing movement around these issues, and around the 2030 Challenge, is beginning to take shape, so I would imagine that there are many other people in other industries who may begin to embrace these changes. For example, there's an organization called ConSol, and they address the mass-market housing industry in terms of the issues we just talked about. There's the Urban Land Institute. There's the Congress for the New Urbanism. They all specifically address how such issues affect development.

BLDGBLOG: What about designing a kind of prototype development, or model village, that might serve to exemplify the 2030 Challenge?

Mazria: To teach by design? I think that's happening. On our website, we have a whole section on projects that begin to meet the targets, and we do have buildings that fit that category, that we've designed over the years. In fact, in the 1980s, we designed the Mt. Airy Library that reduced its consumption of fossil fuels over an average building of that type, in that region, by over 80%. Just through design.

In fact, in the early 1980s, right after the first energy crisis, the US Department of Energy sponsored anywhere between twelve and eighteen architects around the country to design very low-energy buildings. I would say probably every one of those architects demonstrated that you could get reductions of 50-80% just through design! There were many, many buildings built in the late 1970s, and during the 1980s, using passive solar design, and day-lighting principles, that actually put those buildings off the grid.

So you have a wealth of information generated way back then. It wasn't until oil went down to $10 a barrel, and the Reagan Administration came in and basically killed off all these initiatives, that we really came to rely on fossil fuels. Now our buildings are sealed up; they have no real integrated relationship with the exterior environment. When we talk about a connection to the environment in architecture today, for the past 30 or 50 years we've just been talking about a visual connection. We haven't been talking about a real, integrated, energy-based connection between the building and its environment. And that's where the term open systems comes from – and where we need to be headed.

[Image: School of Nursing and Student Community Center, Houston, designed by BNIM. From their website: "Goals of increased air quality, increased natural daylighting, reduction of polluting emissions and run-off, and increased user satisfaction and productivity were achieved using the LEED® rating system." Via Architecture 2030].

BLDGBLOG: If you drew up actual plans for a carbon neutral city of the future, though, wouldn't that give people a clearer sense of what all this will look like? Which would then help both the clients and the architects understand what they need to do next?

Mazria: I think that's a really good question – because having some imagery for what we're talking about is very important in terms of us acting. But for only one person to come up with a plan or an image – that might actually do more damage than good. I think you need a whole range of aesthetics and ideas to take shape, and what shakes out will be those ideas and solutions that work. I think tying it to just one visual image would not be helpful.

BLDGBLOG: You've also talked about the importance of new design software – software that can model, in real-time, the projected energy-use of an architectural design. That would help architects meet their emissions targets. Has there been any progress on that front?

Mazria: Every time we make a decision – we reorient the building, we twist it, we add glazing, we use this kind of material, we add a shading device, we reposition or realign a wall – we have to have, in the corner, the energy implications of that. It should be as simple as just two numbers: one would indicate whether we’re meeting our target of a 50% reduction, or a 60% reduction, or a 70% reduction – how close we are to hitting that target. The other would indicate the actual embodied energy in the materials and construction of the building. If we had those two numbers as we design our buildings, then, intuitively, as designers, we would understand the results of our actions.

These design tools are a critical piece, and the major players are AutoDesk, Google – we need them to take this on almost as an emergency effort, to put this on a fast-track. In fact, Green Building Studio is already working diligently in this area. Students can send their design over to them and get an analysis back in, I think, fifteen minutes – for free. But the companies that supply us with these tools really need to step up to the plate. The federal government can help, or the larger states that have resources of money can help, by putting some dollars into R&D and getting those tools out there immediately.

BLDGBLOG: Could you issue a kind of Software Challenge to help kick things into gear?

Mazria: We could. I think that, because the AIA adopted the 2030 Challenge, you would see now that the federal government and the larger states – and the cities, and the companies – would not be far behind. Adopting the Challenge was critical in getting more movement in this area. I think as more cities adopt the Challenge, and want to understand how they can implement it, they're going to require certain kinds of software, and the software companies will be competing to supply that software.

Right now we're in the process of creating a huge market for those tools. If the Challenge gets adopted by the schools, then even the schools will be looking for this software.

We're helping to put a market in place – so the software companies will have to act.

[Image: Energy Savings Buildings, Albuquerque; designed by Mazria Inc. Photo via Metropolis].

BLDGBLOG: Finally, you mentioned mayors earlier. How has your experience been with other political leaders, at different levels of government?

Mazria: It's actually gone quite well – the mayors are highly interested and motivated. I was in Washington yesterday, actually, talking to Senators and to members of Congress about getting federal support. That would mean having federal buildings lead the way – because the federal government does quite a lot of building – probably about 3% of total construction – and we're asking for all federally-funded buildings to meet the Challenge targets.

We're also asking for incentives to help meet these targets, until everyone gets up to speed. In some cases there are costs involved, so if you provide incentives you can help accelerate the adoption of the Challenge – so the quicker we get incentives into place, the better.

But there's now a lot of interest on Capitol Hill for what we're talking about.

BLDGBLOG: Is that because of the elections this past November?

Mazria: It is.

We just don't have that much time left. We really have to work absolutely as hard as we can right now to get things done. We need everyone – I mean everyone – really pulling in the same direction, and not getting discouraged. You can make things happen. Everyone has a role in making things happen. I can't emphasize this enough: we need everyone. It's the people who respond to the situation that will make it happen – and that's who we're looking to reach.

This is doable. It's a doable job, and I think all the pieces are known; we understand them – we know what needs to be done. We only have to do it now. We now know exactly where we need to be; we know what the reductions are; we know how to get them; we know where to go for the incentives – we just have to make it happen.

The time for small, incremental changes has passed. This is not a top-down action; that's too slow. This change has to come from across the universities, the industries, and the entire political spectrum.

• • •

With huge thanks to Ed Mazria for his interest, efforts, and time. Thanks, as well, to Quilian Riano, for helping set up this discussion.

[Note: This interview was simultaneously posted on both Worldchanging and Inhabitat].

Minggu, 28 Januari 2007

0 Laminated into mountains over the course of a billion years

Earlier this month, the New York Times took its readers to Angel Falls, Venezuela – and onto the terrain of a lost supercontinent called Gondwana.

[Image: A remnant glimpse of a lost supercontinent, via the New York Times; photographer unknown. "The path in some stretches was completely overgrown with trees, reminding me how oppressively dark the jungle can be," we read].

Throughout Venezuela, we read, there are dozens of sandstone mesas, or tepuis. These tepuis are "remnants of what geologists believe were the mountains of the ancient supercontinent known as Gondwana."
Incredibly, some of these "isolated mesas are two billion years old, preserving an array of unique plant and animal life that rivals that of places like the Galápagos."
According to the article, some of the "distances involved" in flying from one mesa to the other can be so extreme that many species of bird cannot make the trip; each mesa thus acts as a kind of evolutionary island, where genetic lines unfurl and develop in complete isolation over thousands of generations. Weird birds and flowering plants thrive.
Studying these sites might therefore give us a glimpse into "what the world was like more than a billion years ago."
That last quotation is from Charles Brewer-Carías, a man the NYTimes describes as "a Caracas-based naturalist and explorer who is an eminent expert on Auyantepui and the country's other mesas."
He is also an "ex-dentist."
In fact, during "186 expeditions into Venezuela's backlands, Mr. Brewer-Carías has discovered the world's largest sinkholes, on a tabletop mountain called Sarisariñama, and practiced dentistry among the Yekuana tribe, whose language he speaks fluently." And he's still going: "Accompanied by Czech speleologists" in early 2006, Brewer-Carías "documented what may be the world's largest quartzite cave."
In any case, it's the tepuis that fascinate me here; these "sandstone mountains," Brewer-Carías explains, "are the majestic leftovers of an enormous washover of sand that came from Africa." This makes them "a window into what once was Gondwanaland" – laminated dunes of a lost desert – the remnant geography of a world that no longer exists.

(Vaguely – in fact, more or less not even slightly – related: Z).
Sian! It's Monday again and too soon it will be the last episode of Girls Out Loud!!!

Really looking forward to it though, coz the last ep will be the most fabulous of all, inclusive of the all gory nose job. I hope the censors let it in!

10pm, Channel 5 - Monday!

I saw a bangala worker nursing a smashed head wound today at Teban Gdns!! He was dripping blood on the ground and his friend was helping him. It looks like someone hit him on the head with some beer bottle!

Poor guy.

Speaking of beer bottle smashing, I've always wanted to try smashing one at the edge of the table but I am afraid I will cut myself/glass fly into eyeball, etc, so I never really got to doing it.

I heard tho, that if you smash the bottle against the table like they do in the movies, the bottle will break very close to the part where you hold it, i.e. more than 2/3 of the bottle will be gone, leaving you with a ridiculous-looking stump of a bottle.

Sounds really stupid! I am imagining some stupid ah beng breaking the bottle and then looking totally flustered and embarrassed in front of his enemy, and cue *kua kua kua* music. Ha!!

Anyway, regarding the video, I didn't think it is racist! It's the guy's angry reaction that's funny, and the way he speaks. The way he speaks is funny not because of his Indian accent, but because he speaks funny. *shrugs*

As for the muslim thing, well, it's just like going into a vegetarian restaurant asking for meat, isn't it? Just very ridiculous-sounding, but nothing malicious. :)

Ha! You guys have like no sense of humour.

Not funny? That sound clip should win an oscar!

Till laters, and remember to watch Girls Out Loud!!

p/s: After tomorrow's ep I will be able to post up my after nose job pics. :D

Sabtu, 27 Januari 2007

0 The town at risk from cave-ins

In what sounds like the plot of a bad horror film, we read that "kids in Picher, Okla., are exposed to lead, and the ground is at risk of cave-ins" due to the "abandoned mines beneath the city."
Turns out the whole town is now under "voluntary buyout" by the US government because the place is so polluted that no one should be living there. Tailings from abandoned lead and zinc mines are to blame; indeed, there are "giant gray piles of mining waste, known locally as 'chat,' some hundreds of feet tall and acres wide, that loom over abandoned storefronts and empty lots."

[Image: "Chat piles" looming round the "abandoned storefronts and empty lots" of Picher, OK; photo by Matt Wright, author of the article I've been quoting. See also this photo gallery from the US Geological Survey's own tour of Picher, or this series of images from 1919].

From the Washington Post:
    Signs of Picher's impending death are everywhere. Many stores along Highway 69, the town's main street, are empty, their windows coated with a layer of grime, virtually concealing the abandoned merchandise still on display. Trucks traveling along the highway are diverted around Picher for fear that the hollowed-out mines under the town would cause the streets to collapse under the weight of big rigs. (!) In some neighborhoods, empty mobile homes sit rusting in the sun, their windows broken, their doors yawning open, the detritus of life – car parts, broken toys, pieces of carpet, rotting sofas – strewn across their front yards.
But what happens in twenty years' time, when a group of joy-riding teenagers from across state lines find themselves driving through Picher in the late afternoon...? They park their car, laughing, and throw rocks through some windows; one of them sneaks behind the old neighborhood Piggly Wiggly and opens up the door of a small shed – finding the entrance to a mine... When, suddenly, the ground opens up on the main street and swallows all three of his friends.
He hears screaming – as well as what sound like whispering voices coming from beneath the ground all around him...
The sun is now setting. Swallowing fear, our naive hero of the high school football squad descends into the lead mines to find them...
Or has that film already been made?

(Thanks, Javier! See also Helltown USA and Cancer Villages).

Kamis, 25 Januari 2007

0 Make Money: Join the Paparazzi

By now we all have digital cameras or at least cell phones with cameras right? Well keep your's at your side 24x7. If you see Paris Hilton take a tumble or Peyton Manning beating up his brother, take a video or picture and head over to Scooplive.com.

ScoopLive is free to join and they'll essentially take your images and broker deals with magazines, tabloids, and other publications. If it's just an average picture and no one buys it, they'll place the image in their stock picture gallery for someone to purchase later on.

The beauty is that you retain all of the rights to the image and you get up to 85% of the sale price.

Scooplive via Techcrunch

0 AOL's New Video Site for Home DIY Enthusiasts

At lunch today I received an email from the Director of Corporate Communications at AOL. First, I was surprised that she was emailing me; I mean I am just the Dumb Little Man. However, her message was a good one.

She explained that AOL just launched a new online video series that is totally free and on-demand. The guy doing the series is Eric Stromer, an accomplished DIY'er that grew up about 25 miles from me.

The site is nice and if off to a good start. It's not quite a one stop shop for DIY but over time I have to assume that they'll be adding dozens of new projects.

Stop by and see if it has anything for you. Be sure to turn down the volume because at the time of this posting, the video was set to auto play and it became excruciatingly painful to deal with. But, I can deal with that if I'm learning how to fix something for free.

Home Improvement with Eric Stromer by Aol

0 Bubbl.us - Map your projects for free

This morning Solution Watch did a nice review on a site named Bubbl.us. It's a site that quickly allows you to create mind-maps (aka simple diagrams that organize thoughts).

Being a visually stimulated person, I was actually about to embark on a quest for something like this to help me with a few projects at work. I tried bubbl.us and loved it.

Here is a sample that I created in less than 2 minutes and that includes the time it took me to learn how the service works. Yes, it's that simple and yes this image looks a little small because of the blog's limitations, not bubbl.us'.

Give it a shot. You can test it out without registering or providing any information.

Rabu, 24 Januari 2007

0 The Planet Miller

[Image: The "Voronoi Shelf" and "Extruded Chair" by Marc Newsom; image by Lamay Photo, courtesy of Gagosian Gallery, NYC].

In a recent post on gravestmor we read about the furniture of Marc Newsom. Every table, chair, and bookshelf Newsom designs has been individually milled "from a single slab of marble from the same Carrara quarry" – so there are no hinges and no joinery.

[Image: A "lathed marble table" by Marc Newsom; image by Lamay Photo, courtesy of Gagosian Gallery, NYC].

"I think that if this proves anything," Marcus at gravestmor writes, "it is that it is clear now that it was a mistake to build the Beijing Olympic Stadium in steel" – after all, he says, "carving the whole thing out a single piece of marble would have, in hindsight, been the correct choice."

[Images: Two "extruded" tables by Marc Newsom; image by Lamay Photo, courtesy of Gagosian Gallery, NYC].

Alternatively, you could take several dozen CNC-milling machines – like the ones that Newsom used – and disappear into the Rocky Mountains. Alone.
Over the course of a decade, you mill every single peak in northwestern Colorado into an elaborate cobweb of arches and shelves, weird nets of rock that stand thousands of feet above the horizon. You mill gentle slides and curves, nesting one into the other across counties – huge, gyroscopic spans bending down through the mountain air. Then, a few miles away, you begin work on a new town that no one else knows about, complete with churches, homes, and a small planetarium, ground and polished straight from the exposed surface of the earth. On quiet nights, the wind hums across doorsills...
Everyday, fifty years from now, at sunset, in a village called Lumière, a new kind of cinema begins: huge, moving shadows creep across the landscape, dragging east against the falling of the sun. Golden light casts like a laser through complex shapes milled decades earlier.
People sit in lawn chairs, watching, stunned.

(Vaguely related: On the geotechnical invasion of paradise and Milled landscapes – though that second link is pretty old).

0 Tresor

According to a short article in The Berlin Paper, "legendary" Berlin nightclub Tresor is set to reopen "in an old steam-heat generating plant" on Köpenicker Straße.

[Image: Tresor's new home; photo by Thilo Rückeis for Der Tagesspiegel, via The Berlin Paper].

Tresor's original founder, Dimitri Hegemann, "wants to promote electronic music and electronic art" in the new space. Indeed, Hegemann "envisions hosting pieces similar in style to Olafur Eliasson's Weather Project at the Tate Modern."
The new location "boasts four levels, 20,000 square meters of space (215,278 square feet), and 30 meter ceilings (98 feet). It lends itself to the kind of third art space between the Nationalgalerie and Hamburger Bahnhof that many in Berlin, including mayor Klaus Wowereit, have been calling for."
A quick note on the original Tresor: it opened in 1991 in the vault of the old Wertheim department store, near Potsdamer Platz, on what would have been the east side of the Wall. There was an upstairs space, called Globus, for house music, and this insane basement – the actual Tresor – where low ceilings, hundreds of people, ridiculously loud music, and smoke so thick you sometimes couldn't see your own hand in front of your face made it feel like some sort of serial killer UFO-dungeon loose beneath the streets of the city.

[Images: The staircase down, and the dancefloor it led to; photos courtesy of Tresor].

As Tresor's own website describes it: "the club’s rough, apocalyptic atmosphere ruled above all: condensation dripped down the raw concrete walls of the old vault rooms; rusty steel bars separated visitors from the bar; several hundred forced-opened safe-deposit boxes lined the walls that spoke of wealth long forgotten; strobe lights and fast, hard beats dominated the dance floor. Only here could electronic music correspond with such architecture – the senses were left equally numbed and brutalised." And I was there almost every Wednesday and Friday night for two summers in a row. Going deaf.
Meanwhile, the new space could be open to the public as early as March 16th, 2007. Anyone want to fly me to Berlin...?

[Image: Humans beneath the surface of the earth, listening to music; photo courtesy of Tresor].

(News spotted via Artkrush. Note: you can listen to old sets from Tresor via this link).
No pork!

Super funny lar!

Selasa, 23 Januari 2007

0 Are you REALLY Saving by Changing Credit Cards?

When you see this picture, what is the first thing that comes to mind?

My answer? Oh, I immediately think of running in the other direction. This image looks like an advertisement for some credit card and we all know that I only use my American Express card that gets paid in full each month.

However, in this case I would be wrong. The image you see comes from a site named Credit Card Clients. They've built a cool tool named the Savings Agent that is basically an ad-free way of analyzing a ton of credit cards simultaneously.

The Savings Agent simulates what would happen if you switched over to a different credit card. It takes the fine-print of an alternative credit card offer, including multiple interest rates; balance transfer fees; annual fees and more, and utilizes financial calculations to compare the projected balance with the one of your current card. It then repeats this process on a large database of credit card offers and presents you with the 10 cards that can save you the most money.

Not bad and you are not asked for any personal information so I gave it a shot. I entered a fake balance, my FICO score, and an interest rate and they recommended a card for me along with the savings I could anticipate.

If you must use credit cards, choose a good one. If you don't know what a good one is you can refer to 9 things to Consider when Choosing a Credit Card or Dissect a Credit Card deal to read about a few things to watch for.

Savings Agent via Sound Money Tips

0 Geology in the Age of the War on Terror

A few months after September 11th, the New York Times published a kind of geological look at the War on Terror.
In a short but amazingly interesting – albeit subscriber-only – article, the NYTimes explored how ancient landscape processes and tectonic events had formed the interconnected mountain caves in which Osama bin Laden was, at that time, hiding.

[Image: The topography of Afghanistan, a sign of deeper tectonics. In a cave somewhere amidst those fractal canyons sat Osama bin Laden, in the darkness, rubbing his grenades, complaining about women, Jews, and homosexuals...].

"The area that is now Afghanistan started to take shape hundreds of millions of years ago," the article explains, "when gigantic rocks, propelled by the immense geological forces that continuously rearrange the earth's landforms, slammed into the landmass that is now Asia."
From here, rocks "deep inside the earth" were "heated to thousands of degrees and crushed under tremendous pressures"; this caused them to "flow like taffy." And I love this next sentence: "Just like the air masses in thunderstorms, the warmer rocks rise and the cooler ones sink, setting up Ferris wheel-shaped circulations of magma that drag along the crust above them. Over time, these forces broke off several pieces off the southern supercontinent of Gondwanaland – the ancient conglomeration of South America and Africa – and carried them north toward Asia."
Of course, Afghanistan – like most (but not all) of the earth's surface – was once entirely underwater. There, beneath the warm waves of the Tethys Seaway, over millions of year, aquatic organisms "were compressed into limestone."
Limestone, incidentally, is less a rock than a kind of strange anatomical by-product – something the living can become.
In any case, these massive and shuddering tectonic mutations continued:
    Minerals from the ocean floor, melted by the heat of the interior, then flowed back up near the surface, forming rich deposits of copper and iron (minerals that could someday finance an economic boom in Afghanistan). The limestone along the coasts of Asia and India buckled upward, like two cars in a head-on collision. Water then ate away at the limestone to form the caves. Though arid today, Afghanistan was once warm and wet. Carbon dioxide from decaying plants dissolves into water to form carbonic acid, and in water-saturated underground areas, the acid hollowed out the limestone to form the caves, some several miles long.
The story gets really interesting here, then; think of it as the CIA-meets-geology.

[Image: Via the Telegraph].

What happened was that Osama bin Laden, in hiding after 9/11, started releasing his famous videotapes – but those tapes included glimpses of cave walls and rocky hillsides behind him.
When John F. Shroder – a geologist specializing in the structure of Himalayan Afghanistan – saw the tapes, he tried to interpret their setting and background, looking for mineralogical clues as to where bin Laden might be. Like a scene from The Conversation – or, hermeneutics gone geo-cinematic – Shroder pored over the tapes, fast-forwarding and rewinding, scanning for subtle signs...
It was the surface of the earth on TiVo.
"Afghanistan's fighters find shelter in the natural caves," the New York Times continues. "They also make their own, often in the mountains of crystalline rock made of minerals like quartz and feldspar, the pieces of Afghanistan that were carried in by plate tectonics. 'This kind of rock is extremely resistant,' Dr. Shroder said. 'It's a good place to build bunkers, and bin Laden knows that.' Dr. Shroder said he believed that Mr. bin Laden's video in October was taken in a region with crystalline rocks like those south of Jalalabad."
All of which makes me think that soldiers heading off to Afghanistan could do worse than to carry bulletproof copies of Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth along with them.
As another New York Times article puts it: "Afghanistan is a virtual ant farm of thousands of caves, countless miles of tunnels, deeply dug-in bases and heavily fortified bunkers. They are the product of a confluence of ancient history, climate, geology, Mr. bin Laden's own engineering background – and, 15 years back, a hefty dose of American money from the Central Intelligence Agency."
Bin Laden et al could thus "take their most secret and dangerous operations to earth," hidden beneath the veil of geology.

(Elsewhere: Bryan Finoki takes a tour of borders, tunnels, and other Orwellian wormholes; see also BLDGBLOG's look at Terrestrial weaponization).

0 Damn

Mike's in the shower and I thought I'd quickly blog something before you guys hold a grudge against me.

I was out with my cousin Cally to try on her wedding gown the other day, and my relatives were all commenting that the nose looked a bit crooked.

I think this is coz I bumped into Mike's nose the other day when we were *blush* kissing, and now the implant has shifted into a weirdass position!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Horrors of horrors.

Before I had another appointment with Dr Huang, I was trying to make it look straight on the mirror, and I realised, to do that, I have to smile a strange loop-sided smile!! Ah, that explains some things.

So yeah lor, people who are thinking of doing nose jobs - don't think that the adventure ends after the surgery! Got to keep being cautious and everything.

I attempted to dig my nose the other day (first time in 2 months!) and the nostril seemed so small and delicate, even the last finger can't fit in! Didn't know the bloody nose holes used to be so big!

I went to see Dr Huang, and the first thing he said when he saw me was, "It's crooked now."

I was like, -_-|| Dammit!

So yeah lor, he tried to push the implant back into position, and it was quite painful. :( Good news is that he said it still can be rectified and instructed me to keep on massaging it everyday. :(

And I kept massaging it, then it obtained a FUCKING LOAD of blackheads, and Cellnique can't even work coz as long as the blackheads come out I go ahead and massage some more into the pores.

Even better, two pimples grew on each side of the nose, and they CAN'T BE SQUEEZED due to their awkward positioning and fragile nature of my breathe hole.

So in conclusion, my nose is crooked, full of blackheads, and has two zits on it.

All that because of a little bit of enthusiastic kissing. GOD DAMN!


It appears to me that there seems to be an ebb of bloggers attempting to make blogging their living too.

I am pretty annoyed, coz before me, in Singapore at least, there was no one else.

No other full-time blogger.

I had to come out with the prices, the strategies, the methods, all by myself, and people are simply lifting them off me now, because I have proven to make things work.

That's ok, shit happens.

What I'm not ok with is when bloggers do not follow a code of ethics.

I remember the era where there was only mrbrown, Miyagi, and myself... Those were good times, and the boys were honest bloggers. We discussed stuff like blog ethics and how to earn money and at the same time remain real and truthful to our readers.

If you want to advertise, make it clear it is an advertisement, else nobody is ever going to trust the things you say the next time you introduce products or services.

Or worse, if blog readers find out about dishonesty? That I don't even want to imagine.

Once, it was student recruitment time, and a polytechnic approached me to do advertising on my blog.

We discussed about advertorials, and the fee came up to $5,000 worth of money, but the big guys were were not comfortable with the tiny "Advertorial" word on the top of my paid blog entries.

Guy asked me if I could not put THAT word up - they are willing to pay much more without it. Board might get some controversy if they were seen advertising with someone who wrote about handicapped toilets, they said.

I won't say I wasn't tempted - $5,000 is a bloody lot of money.

And it will be easy, all I have to say is that I visited the polytechnic and took some photos...

But I made this promise and I intended to keep it.

I was complaining about this to my RV friends that day, and to my surprise, none of them were even slightly agreeing with my views!

Ghimz said that if he were a blogger, he would charge two prices for advertorials, and the "subtle" one would be more expensive.

The rest seemed to not know that bloggers were not supposed to mask ads as blog entries anyway!!

I am shell-shocked!

You are telling me, all these years, after losing so much money by keeping to my ethics, that nobody even appreciates it?

And XXX blogger, when linking an advertiser who also approached me, has his/her link to work perfectly simply because he/she acted like she linked the advertiser out of the goodness of his/her heart?


I am one pissed off blogger!

Tell me what you guys think. Should bloggers be honest? Should paid links be stated as paid? Or won't it matter to you?

I am sooooo pissed off.


On a totally similar note, advertisers should be happy to know that it has been six months since the pixel advertising first took place, and the inital ads are all expiring.

As such, I am having a HUGE HUGE SALE RIGHT NOW!!

Each square there is only $30, and yes, $30 gets you a link on Xiaxue's blog! 2 squares? $60. And so on and so forth.

Nab this cheap chance and get your prime spots before someone else does, so click here. :D

(P/s: Left Mike alone to go listen to his mp3 player while I blogged! Poor boy looks quite bored, you guys should be touched. :D)

0 This Friday: Free Professional Retirement Advice

I know the holidays are over but I am generous and wanted to give all of you guys a late gift. Frankly, this one is worth a little more than the socks your Aunt gave you.

Kiplingers Personal Finance is holding a FREE Retirement Checkup. It's not one of these online chat sessions that ultimately results in endless spam and regret, this actually seems pretty solid. All you are doing is calling a toll-free number and asking a professional any questions you want(yes that means US only).

For the fifth time, we are joining with the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) to sponsor Kiplinger's Jump-Start Your Retirement Plan Days. From 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. eastern time on Tuesday, January 16, and Friday, January 26, NAPFA members across the U.S. will be standing by to take your calls and answer your questions.
Why is it worth so much? Well, if you actually implement something that you learn, you may get to retire before you are 80. If you need immediate cost savings gratification, know that

..Normally, these fee-only planners, who are well versed in investments, taxes, insurance, estate planning, and retirement and college saving, charge clients $100 to $250 an hour. But on Jump-Start Days, you pay nothing -- not even for the phone call. Just dial 888-919-2345.
Get the info at A Free Retirement Checkup from Kiplingers [via Get Rich Slowly]

Senin, 22 Januari 2007

0 The Architecture of Managed Retreat

For some reason, BLDGBLOG's recent look at architectural partitioning reminded me of something from The Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald.
At one point, Sebald is describing the slow collapse of large manor houses as they fail to survive years of inadequate maintenance:
    Keeping up the houses even in the most rudimentary way had long been impossible. The paintwork was flaking off the window encasements and the doors; the curtains became threadbare; the wallpaper peeled off the walls; the upholstery was worn out; it was raining in everywhere, and people put out tin tubs, bowls and pots to catch the water. Soon they were obliged to abandon the rooms on the upper storeys, or even whole wings, and retreat to more or less usable quarters on the ground floor. The window panes in the locked-up rooms misted over with cobwebs, dry rot advanced, vermin bore the spores of mould to every nook and cranny, and monstrous brownish-purple and black fungal growths appeared on the walls and ceilings, often the size of an ox-head. The floorboards began to give, the beams of the ceilings sagged, and the panelling and staircases, long since rotten within, crumbled to sulphurous yellow dust, at times overnight. Every so often, usually after a long period of rain or extended droughts or indeed after any change in the weather, a sudden, disastrous collapse would occur in the midst of the encroaching decay that went almost unnoticed, and had assumed the character of normality. Just as people supposed they could hold a particular line, some dramatic and unanticipated deterioration would compel them to evacuate further areas, till they really had no way out and found themselves forced to the last post, prisoners in their own homes.
(More Sebald: The birds and Bunker Archaeology).

Minggu, 21 Januari 2007

0 Urban strangeness

This happens all the time to other blogs, who are constantly popping up in things like BusinessWeek and Metropolis and Dwell – and so it's more or less a kind of meaningless chest-thumping to point this out – but I was quite excited to see that BLDGBLOG (under its nom de guerre of BLDG) was listed in this Saturday's copy of The Guardian

– along with design*sponge and The Cool Hunter...
Anyway, blah blah blah. I was just excited to see that. Sorry.

(Thanks to John Coulthart for the tip!)

Sabtu, 20 Januari 2007

0 The wall

In New York, the BBC tells us, "Chana and Simon Taub, both 57, have endured two years of divorce negotiations, but neither is prepared to give up their Brooklyn home. Now a white partition wall has been built through the heart of the house to keep the pair apart."
Incredibly, a New York City judge actually "ordered that the partition wall be built."

[Image: "A white drywall partition, in background at left, separates Simon Taub from Chana Taub in their Brooklyn home." Via MSNBC].

I'm reminded of a few things, architecturally, including the Berlin Wall, the Israeli Wall, and House VI by Peter Eisenman. House VI, for instance, came complete with "a linear notch in the bedroom floor that prevented the [homeowners] from sleeping in the same bed." Eisenman's design, then, was a triumph of "antagonistic space planning" that put architecture itself front and center in the story of a marriage.
In any case, the Taubs' new marital wall "divides the ground floor of the house, and keeps husband and wife penned into separate sections on different floors. One door linking the rival sections of the house is barricaded shut to prevent any accidental contact between the pair."
Perhaps there's even a business model to be found in this story somewhere: you graduate from Princeton into a stagnant economy, unable to find work at any architecture firms...
So you start your own company, called Partition, and you specialize in home renovations for broken families: you add security walls and panic rooms; you seal entire wings off and install surveillance cameras above certain doorways; you add spy holes and thin layers of lead to block cellphone communication. You redirect the plumbing.
Finding great success in this line of work, you decide to produce a new series of reality TV shows in which perfectly healthy, loving families move into such structures, in a fake suburb erected somewhere in Glendale. You and the rest of the world then watch as each family descends into a state of catatonic rage and emotional abandonment, the spouses sexually blackmailing one another.
Peter Eisenman soon offers you a job...

0 Most Overlooked Tax Deductions

If you are just taking the standard deduction on this year's income takes you can skip past this information. However, for those that are itemizing you'd be wise to become educated on the most overlooked tax deductions.

Here is a nice and handy list from H&R Block:
You can also try to keep up to date on tax info at the next H&R Block blog AND I'd personally appreciate it if you visited Young and Broke, the personal finance blog that pointed me to this good stuff.

Photo: Almost Appalachia

0 Free Training and Podcast Library for Small Business

A few years back my first experience with the Small Business Administration (SBA) may have soured my view of them because it took a little insomnia to bring me back to their site.

I was actually a little surprised at some of the new content despite the mediocre design. First, they actually have several podcasts such as Check List for Starting a Business or Financing a Small Business. All of the podcasts have transcripts available too just in case.

I was also pretty impressed with 40+ free online courses that you can take. I cannot say that I have gone through them all but I can say the price is right!

Not bad guys. Before you go pay an "expert" for the same stuff, check these out.

Jumat, 19 Januari 2007

0 Grade the School Before you Move

Considering a move into a new community with your darling kids? Well, before making the jump, the little voice in your head should recommend that you study up on the school district's test scores to see how they stack up.

My Tech Opinion, the online home of Real Estate blogger and former teacher Reggie Nicolay, points to 3 sites aimed at reporting school test scores to help ensure that your upgrade to a new home doesn't mean downgrading the kids education.

"Let’s face it; when it comes to real estate, buyers with school-age children want homes in nice neighborhoods with great schools. We all want the best for our kids. But how do you really know that the school is “great” and what is really best for our kids?"

Specifically, Part 1 of his 2 part series mentions Greatschools.net, Schoolmatters.com. and Schoolwisepress.com. Now I am not the judge and jury on this but after a look around at the three sites, I am partial to Great Schools. Their site is very easy to navigate, has nice large fonts and um, a couple thousand articles and tips for parents.
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