abraham lincoln abraham maslow academic papers africa aging aid alexander the great amazon america android os apple architecture aristotle art art institute chicago astronomy astrophysics aubrey de grey beck beer berlin bernacke bicycle BIG bill murray biophilia birds blogs bob dylan books bourdain brewing brian wansink buckminster fuller bukowski cameras cancer carl jung carl sagan cemetary change charter city chicago china christmas church civil war climate change cologne construction coop himmelblau copenhagen cornell west cps craigslist crime crown hall cyanotype cyrus dalai lama darkroom data dbHMS death design build dessau detail Diet dogs dome dongtan douglas macarthur drake equaation dresden dubai ebay eco economics economy education einstein emerson emily dickinson energy experiments facebook farming finance finland florida food france frank lloyd wright frei otto freud frum funny furniture games gay rights gdp george w bush george washington germany ghandi glenn murcutt goals good google government graphic design guns h.g. wells h.l. mencken hagakure halloween health health care henri cartier bresson herzog and demeuron honey housing human trafficking humanitarian efforts hydroponics ideas iit indexed india industrial design industrial work internet investments japan jaqueline kennedy jim cramer john maynard keynes john ronan john stewart journalism kickstarter kings of leon kittens krugman kurt vonnegut kurzweil lao tzu law le corbusier ledoux leon battista alberti links LSH madoff malcolm gladwell marijuana marriage masdar city math mead medicine microsoft mies van der rohe military milton friedman mlk money movies munich murphy/jahn music nasa nervi neutra new york nickel nietzsche nobel prize norman foster nsa obama occupy open source paintball palladium print paris parking party passive house paul mccartney persia philip roth philosophy photography picturequote pirate bay pirating plants poetry poker politics portfolio potsdam predictions prejudice presidents process photos prostitution psychology public housing q and a quotes rammed earth randy pausch reading reddit regan religion rendering renewables renzo piano restaurants revolution richard meier richard rogers robert frank rome rubik's cube rule of 72 rumi san francisco sartre sauerbruch hutton saule sidrys schinkel school science screen printing seattle sesame street seth roberts sketch social media soviet sparta spider spinoza sports stanley kubrick stanley milgram statistics steinbeck sudhir venkatesh suicide sustainable design switzerland taxes technology ted teddy roosevelt tension terracotta tesla thanatopsis the onion thomas jefferson thoreau time lapse tommy douglas transportation travel truman tumblr unemployment urban design van gogh venezuela vicuna video video games wall street war werner sobek wood woodshop woodworking ww1 ww2

30 November 2009

Quick School Work Update

I've been documenting my work rather poorly, but this represents a few of my larger studio projects. I'll add to it later once finals week is over.

This is Rudolph Schindler's Kings Road House. He worked for Frank Lloyd Wright and actually built and lived in this house. It's considered the first modern house ever built. It's about 3' x 1.5' and made of basswood (house), MDF (base and street), and baltic birch plywood (topo and vegetation). It's a assembled component model so it all comes apart.

All together.

Upper roof taken off.

Lower roof and supporting structural beams taken out.

A few of the walls taken out. The rest come out too.

Detail of the sunken gardens, guest, and garage area.

Structure, sleeping baskets (so weird), and roof assemblage.

This is my current project. It's a public use kayak center at the South Turning Basin in Chicago. Here it's placed within the larger site.

This is just my concept model... the 3 drawings and 3 models are due later this week. It's made of chipboard and basswood.

This was our first project. We measured kayaks, drew them to scale, then made a positive and negative model of them at 1/4 scale from museum board. This measures over 4' long.


Edit: As background to this excerpt I thought it would be prudent to mention that this was written in reaction to the fact that Emerson's wife had died in 1832 (of tuberculosis at the age of 20) leading him to leave the church; he was a preacher. His son then died 1842 which led to his later darker and harder style of writing.

"People grieve and bemoan themselves, but it is not half so bad with them as they say. There are moods in which we court suffering, in the hope that here, at least, we shall find reality, sharp peaks and edges of truth. But it turns out to be scene-painting and counterfeit. The only thing grief has taught me, is to know how shallow it is. That, like all the rest, plays about the surface, and never introduces me into the reality, for contact with which, we would even pay the costly price of sons and lovers. Was it Boscovich who found out that bodies never come in contact? Well, souls never touch their objects. An innavigable sea washes with silent waves between us and the things we aim at and converse with. Grief too will make us idealists. In the death of my son, now more than two years ago, I seem to have lost a beautiful estate, -- no more. I cannot get it nearer to me. If tomorrow I should be informed of the bankruptcy of my principal debtors, the loss of my property would be a great inconvenience to me, perhaps, for many years; but it would leave me as it found me, -- neither better nor worse. So is it with this calamity: it does not touch me: some thing which I fancied was a part of me, which could not be torn away without tearing me, nor enlarged without enriching me, falls off from me, and leaves no scar. It was caducous. I grieve that grief can teach me nothing, nor carry me one step into real nature. The Indian who was laid under a curse, that the wind should not blow on him, nor water flow to him, nor fire burn him, is a type of us all. The dearest events are summer-rain, and we the Para coats that shed every drop. Nothing is left us now but death. We look to that with a grim satisfaction, saying, there at least is reality that will not dodge us." - Ralph Waldo Emerson, Experience 1844

I'm not entirely sure I agree, but interesting none the less. I feel about this passage the same way I often feel about Buddhism (to which both Emerson and Thoreau both have strong undercurrents of in their writings); it's not that I necessarily disagree with the concept. Yes, suffering is caused by desires, and by ending ones attachment to desires one can cease to suffer... but then why bother? Isn't that what, as my dad is fond of saying, makes life worth the price of admission?

This is Vija in the basement of the Lithuanian World Center. The photography there is outstanding. It's tucked away in a hallway that doesn't seem to be frequented too often, yet contains large black and white fiber prints dating from the 60's to the 90's and covers the entire globe. It was a very beautiful and unsuspecting find. This photo was taken on a cheap plastic Diana+ camera with 120 film.

25 November 2009


The sun is love. The lover,
a speck circling the sun.

A Spring wind moves through to dance
any branch that isn't dead.


A fire escape near Harrison and Wabash. Oddly, the photo isn't edited in any way.

21 November 2009


The black and white photos are mine. They were taken at Pretty Place Church SC in 2003. The color photos were taken from Facebook. I wish I were responsible for the wedding photo at the bottom. To my mind it is quintessential Saule.

I find my own words lacking, so these poems will have to suffice. They merely remind me of my good friend and the long talks we often shared. Some may find my choices dark or bleak, but to me they speak to the beauty of Saule's ephemeral life. Perhaps they will make sense to those who (and I hesitate to phrase it so) knew her well enough. I will miss you more than I will ever let on.

I've seen a Dying Eye
Run round and round a Room -
In search of Something - as it seemed -
Then Cloudier become -
And then - obscure with Fog -
And then - be soldered down
Without disclosing what it be
'Twere blessed to have seen

- Emily Dickinson, #547

Sometimes I forget completely
what companionship is.
Unconscious and insane, I spill sad
energy everywhere. My story
gets told in various ways: a romance,
a dirty joke, a war, a vacancy.

Divide up my forgetfulness to any number,
it will go around.
These dark suggestions that I follow,
are they part of some plan?
Friends, be careful. Don't come near me
out of curiosity, or sympathy.

- Rumi, Sometimes I Forget Completely

10 November 2009

Sartre and His Crabs

Sartre is one of my favorite philosophers, not that I know a damn thing about philosophy, but I do like a good quote or aphorism. Anyways, turns out he was stark raving nuts. In a lovable and endearing way of course. Jean Paul Sartre and his crabs. From Harper's:

"jean-paul sartre: At Normale, there were some ten of us who ran around together. The great thing about group activity is that the decision-making process is generalized to the group. So when we decided to take over a bar and that led to confrontations, yes, each of us was responsible, but it was a common act. Of course, there were some individual disasters too. Well, not disasters, I’m exaggerating, but when we decided to experiment with drugs, I ended up having a nervous breakdown.

john gerassi: You mean the crabs?

sartre: Yeah, after I took mescaline, I started seeing crabs around me all the time. They followed me in the streets, into class. I got used to them. I would wake up in the morning and say, “Good morning, my little ones, how did you sleep?” I would talk to them all the time. I would say, “Okay, guys, we’re going into class now, so we have to be still and quiet,” and they would be there, around my desk, absolutely still, until the bell rang.

gerassi: A lot of them?

sartre: Actually, no, just three or four.

gerassi: But you knew they were imaginary?

sartre: Oh, yes. But after I finished school, I began to think I was going crazy, so I went to see a shrink, a young guy then with whom I have been good friends ever since, Jacques Lacan. We concluded that it was fear of being alone, fear of losing the camaraderie of the group. You know, my life changed radically from my being one of a group, which included peasants and workers, as well as bourgeois intellectuals, to it being just me and Castor. The crabs really began when my adolescence ended. At first, I avoided them by writing about them—in effect, by defining life as nausea—but then as soon as I tried to objectify it, the crabs appeared. And then they appeared whenever I walked somewhere. Not when I was writing, just when I was going someplace. The first time I discussed it with Castor, when they appeared one day as we were strolling in the Midi, we concluded that I was going through a depression, based on my fear that I was doomed the rest of my life to be a professor. Not that I hated to teach. But defined. Classified. Serious. That was the worst part, to have to be serious about life. The crabs stayed with me until the day I simply decided that they bored me and that I just wouldn’t pay attention to them. And then the war came, the stalag, the resistance, and the big political battles after the war.

gerassi: When you tried to launch the so-called Third Force, anti–United States and anti-Communist?

sartre: Exactly. But it didn’t work. It attracted too many reactionaries who may have been against U.S. domination but for the wrong reason. And soon we understood, we had to choose. The basic question: Who was ready, willing even, to launch an attack on the other, to lead us into a new war that would devastate the planet? Obviously, it was the United States. So we had to abandon the Third Force and ally ourselves, albeit reluctantly, with Russia.

gerassi: So, during that period, no crabs? No depression?

sartre: Not until 1958. We had work to do. To push France out of NATO, to refuse U.S. bases, to stop selling our resources to U.S. conglomerates. There were rallies, demonstrations, marches almost every day. And our magazine had to lead the way. Then de Gaulle seized power and suddenly it dawned on me that my life would be totally absurd, that my generation was doomed to exist under his pathetic and ridiculous assurances of “la grandeur de la France.

gerassi: Unlike your previous depression, which was personal, that depression was social, meaning no crabs, right?

sartre: I would have liked my crabs to come back. The crabs were mine. I had gotten used to them. They kept reminding me that my life was absurd, yes, nauseating, but without challenging my immortality. Despite their mocking, my crabs never said that my books would not be on the shelf, or that if they were, so what? You have to realize that my psychosis was literature. I was poured into a world where there was a certain immortality, and it took fifty years to put all that into question, to go not from an ivory tower, but still, from a privileged state of the intellectual, to the contrary, challenging the role of the intellectual. I did that by writing The Words, by rereading Marx, by approaching the Communist Party, and by realizing that I had simply been protecting myself. Whatever happened, my books would be on the shelf, hence I was immortal. For all my anti–religiousness at the time, I was almost like a Christian who thinks that if he’s a nice guy he’ll end up next to God.

gerassi: And your social depression got rid of all that?

sartre: Indeed. My crabs had considered me important, or else why bother me? De Gaulle, the ridiculousness of the Cold War, America’s drive to conquer and control, all that made me realize that I was not and would never be significant.

gerassi: From the end of the war until de Gaulle’s coup d’├ętat in 1958, you were haunted by neither crabs nor depression?

sartre: We keep calling them crabs because of my play The Condemned of Altona, but they were really lobsters.

gerassi: Even Castor occasionally refers to them as your crabs. Anyway, they were gone then?

sartre: Oh, yes, they left me during the war. You know, I’ve never said this before, but sometimes I miss them—when I’m lonely, or rather when I’m alone. When I go to a movie that ends up boring, or not very gripping, and I remember how they used to sit there on my leg. Of course I always knew that they weren’t there, that they didn’t exist, but they served an important purpose. They were a warning that I wasn’t thinking correctly or focusing on what was important, or that I was heading up the wrong track, all the while telling me that my life was not right, not what it should be. Well, no one tells me that anymore."

Crazy, but I really like the ending.

Here's a passage of his that always gets me. It is, of course, almost incomprehensible.

"A freedom which wills itself freedom is in fact a being-which-is-not-what-it-is and which is-what-it-is-not, and which chooses as the ideal of being, being-what-it-is-not and not-being-what-it-is."

09 November 2009

TED Talks and Income Inequality

Note: It's always kind of nice to know that you can change your ideas based on better evidence. The combination of the first TED talk here and the accompanying two articles have altered the way I view perceived value and income inequality.

Ad man Rory Sutherland. Definitely a must see (after all this text).

The point of his that I found most interesting was the idea of perceived value. This is generally something I tend to bemoan the existence of. Perceived value is the idea that a good, say a purse, can be bought for $10 or over $1000 if it has the right label on it. I've written about it before but I'm bad at labeling my posts. Regardless, Mr. Sutherland proposes the rather simple, if not ingenious, idea that we essentially have two choices in this area. We can either have lots of stuff and be rich or have very little and be poor (if nothing is getting produced no one has a job). The alternative is that we can own less but the goods we do own have an element of added perceived value. Think Europe.

The really interesting part is that this has already been noted by economists. We all know that income inequality has been growing in the US, but some economists have said it's really just an artifact of the way we measure the data. As Stephen Levitt puts it:

"Their argument could hardly be simpler. How rich you are depends on two things: how much money you have, and how much the stuff you want to buy costs. If your income doubles, but the prices of the things you consume also double, then you are no better off."

The study basically says that being rich got more expensive while being poor got cheaper (Walmart). This fact according to these economists can explain away between two thirds and all of the "growing" income gap. I feel dirty just saying that. Then on the Becker-Posner blog they collectively agree that rising income inequality is good because it means that people are securing more skilled jobs vie se vie rising higher education costs. It's a good read but a bit dry.

Dutch artist and engineer Theo Jansen makes... creatures.

06 November 2009

Monkeys Participate in the Free Market

Or - I'm a right wing pundit.

Seriously though. From Aid Watch via NPR:

"In a recent experiment, a team of scientists trained a vervet monkey to open a container of apples, a task no other monkey in her group could do. She was well-compensated for this service by the other monkeys, who began to spend a lot of time grooming her (apparently, grooming is the monkey unit of exchange). Then, the scientists trained another monkey in the group to get the apples, and the “price” for the service (ie the amount of grooming the apple-providing monkeys received) went down. NPR Correspondent Alex Bloomberg explained:

[W]hen there was a monkey monopoly on the skill, the monkeys paid one price. But when it became a duopoly, the price fell to an equilibrium point, about half of what it had been. And this all happened despite the fact that we’re talking about monkeys here. Monkeys can’t do math.

What’s the point, other than research studies are really bizarre? Acquiring a sought-after new job skill leads to a higher income, even among monkeys. And, monkey markets can still set prices, even though the market participants can’t add, sign contracts, or talk. And, perhaps, complex markets can be the product of an unintentional, spontaneous order: Out of the chaos of many monkeys running around hitting one another on the heads, pulling nits off each other’s fur, following only the simple rules of monkey hierarchies and monkey appetites…a functioning market emerges."

Of course this serves my ideas which is why I'm drawn to this study. None the less, it is interesting supporting evidence for the existence of a market economy in the absence of any structured economic system. As I've said before - a market economy is what happens when nothing else exists to take its place. Although I understand the many downsides of capitalism, it is essentially brutal evolution after all, I don't understand the criticism. It's just what is. No one criticizes the water cycle or electromagnetism, so what gives? My hunch is that it's another case of people confusing/not understanding issues (as if I really do either). It's like getting mad at Muslims when really you're mad at extremist religions.

04 November 2009

Science, Religion, and Human Trafficking

All in one semi-easy to read, hastily thrown together, and poorly edited post!

Let me begin as usual by lamenting about my inability to post due to grad school. Although, I finally figured out architects and why I don't fit in at school. Wait for it... people become architects because they like design. They are fascinated with the beauty of things more so than the average person. They become architects because buildings are the biggest things you can design. Essentially, they are artists with egos. This is why me and my ideas will never fit in here, but that's fine because:

"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If they're original, you'll have to ram it down their throats." - Howard Aiken (he built one of IBM's first computers)

Bare with me here for a moment:

Recently there's been a mostly academic battle over global warming vis a vie some of my favorite economists and bloggers. Notably the authors of Freakonomics Levitt and Dubner and another favorite blogger, Nobel laureate, Paul Krugman.

It starts with this flame piece by Joe Romm, a respected environmental blogger, about the new book Superfreakonomics which prompts Paul Krugman to weigh in. Levitt and Dubner (authors of the book) realize what's going on and then reply which then sets off another two posts (1,2) by Krugman and the grand finale (great read) by Nathan Myhrvold; a man of which Bill Gates said “I don’t know anyone I would say is smarter than Nathan."

How do we understand such smart people essentially flinging poo at one another from their ivory towers?

I first saw Johnathan Haidt in a TED talk a few months ago. It was one of the best talks I've ever seen. Well now he's back with a Q&A on health care as it relates to his previous talk. Those are both must see/reads. Here he gets at what I want to talk about:

"I did say that in-group, authority and purity are necessary for the maintenance of order, but I would never give them a blanket endorsement. Rather, my message to secular liberals is, Don't dismiss these entirely. Be wary of them, sure; they can motivate violations of civil liberties and human rights. But we need them at times, and to a limited degree. Above all recognize that matters related to ingroup (such as immigration, or the flag), authority (such as crime and punishment), and purity (such as sexuality) are the ones that take on a kind of religious importance for most Americans, because they are about binding groups together around sacred values. Liberals often trigger outrage by ignoring these concerns in their pursuit of social justice, or of efficient policy."

In his TED talk one of the issues that Haidt speaks about is how liberal people will often view certain aspects of eating and exercise as an act of "purity." Think, Wholefoods, organic, spin class, yoga, and other stuff that's kind of nice minus the piles of bullshit you have to walk through to get to their real substance. Whereas more traditional people generally associate purity with sexuality, morals, etc. That is, to liberals (read: most college professors) certain issues generally outside of morality take on a moral meaning. Things like what you eat and global warming are increasingly no longer scientific discussions (although who really talks like that anyways). So when the authors of one book, who admit that global warming is a problem and are working on a reasonable solution, suggest that perhaps the current path we're taking to fight global warming is unrealistic, people - smart people, lose their damn minds because you've just touched something very dear to their psyche. Essentially, arguments take on a sense of religiousness.

Which brings me to the sex trade. I watched a movie tonight called Lilya 4-Ever (Hat tip: Vija via Todd). It was a good movie although I'm not sure I'd recommend it. It was sad to say the least, but it portrays the sex trade in a manner that is quite believable. In fact, I imagine that's more or less just how it happens.

Here's my issue. This is one of those subjects that elicits what I earlier termed the "PETA version of how a slaughter house operates." Is it true? Sure, sometimes, but how do most of these things really operate? In this case, I think the only people who know are those actually involved... and I'm not convinced that a lot of them are giving in depth accounts of their activities. Talk about lack of incentives on all sides.

My issue is this. I am in favor of legalizing a regulated form of prostitution. Do I know exactly how this will work or what the unintended consequences will be? Nope, my heads in the sky. It's my belief that it'd have a similar effect as would legalizing drugs. Drug dealers go out of business and people get a safer product at market prices. There are, of course, all sorts of downsides. I just think the upsides outweigh them in both of these cases. But if the positions in these newly regulated legalized brothels are filled by what are essentially slaves who are forced to have sex... yea. Not okay at all.

The argument I'm hearing over and over is that more or less anything to do with prostitutes, escorts, and strip clubs involves the sex trade. Most guys have been to a strip club. According to what I'm being told, many of those women are slaves. Really? When I think of human trafficking and the sex trade I think of a shady brothel or escort service run by scary men operating completely outside of any sort of law. Am I completely off base? I'm not saying this stuff doesn't exist. I know it does. My question is, to what extent is this true? I have no idea, but I'm just not convinced that other people know either. And again, if prostitution were legalized and regulated (so that no slaves could be "workers") wouldn't that serve to curb the sex trade?

There's so much to say here, and most of which I know little to nothing about. I just want some reliable data.


"Herodotus (and many other intelligent Greeks) always retained a great respect for Cyrus and the characteristically Persian qualities that he embodied... one day a rich and influential Persian came as a spokesman for the people... and suggested that since Persia was now the most powerful country in the world, it would be a good idea if they were to emigrate from their poor and mountainous country and occupy some rich and fertile lowland.

Cyrus did not think much of the suggestion; he replied that they might act upon it if they pleased, but added the warning that, if they did so, they must prepare themselves to rule no longer, but to be ruled by others. 'Soft countries,' he said 'breed soft men. It is not the property of any one soil to produce fine fruits and good soldiers too.' The Persians had to admit that this was true and that Cyrus was wiser than they; so they left him, and chose to live in a rugged land and rule rather than to cultivate rich plains and be slaves." (p 43. Bradford, Ernle. Thermopylae, The Battle for the West. Da Capo Press, 1980.)

That's why people live in Chicago.

This however, is the Brooklyn Brdige in NYC.