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31 December 2009


"You fight your superficiality, your shallowness, so as to try to come
at people without unreal expectations, without an overload of bias or
hope or arrogance, as untanklike as you can be, sans cannon and
machine guns and steel plating half a foot thick; you come at them
unmenacingly on your own ten toes instead of tearing up the turf with
your caterpillar treads, take them on with an open mind, as equals,
man to man, as we used to say, and yet you never fail to get them
wrong. You might as well have the brain of a tank. You get them wrong
before you meet them, while you're anticipating meeting them; you get
them wrong while you're with them; and then you go home to tell
somebody else about the meeting and you get them all wrong again.
Since the same generally goes for them with you, the whole thing is
really a dazzling illusion empty of all perception, an astonishing
farce of perception. And yet what are we to do about this terribly
significant business of other people, which gets bled of the
significance we think it has and takes on instead a significance that
is ludicrous, so ill-equipped are we all to envision one another's
interior workings and invisible aims? Is everyone to go off and lock
the door and sit secluded like the lonely writers do, in a soundproof
cell, summoning people out of words and then proposing that these word
people are closer to the real thing than the real people that we
mangle with our ignorance every day? The fact remains that getting
people right is not what living is all about anyway. It's getting them
wrong that is living, getting them wrong and wrong and wrong and then,
on careful reconsideration, getting them wrong again. That's how we
know we're alive: we're wrong. Maybe the best thing would be to forget
being right or wrong about people and just go along for the ride. But
if you can do that -- well, lucky you." - Philip Roth, American Pastoral

Here's some instrumental music from "Dark Was the Night."

Prepping a boiler in Mokena, IL to be re-tubed. It's one of the more physically demanding things we do. One person rests while the other fights with the roller (a drill the size of your torso).

30 December 2009


I saw the movie Avatar the other day. Wow... just wow. Go see it.

And when I heard it was coming out I remember I had read this in the Bathroom Reader several years earlier:

By the way. I know I'm not supposed to print parts of books or whatever but I post them because I like and own them, so in the rare event that a lawyer from the Bathroom Reader comes on here; be nice, I just ordered another 11 of your books.

Pleasure Reading and Biophilia

Yeah, I had a bit of a backlog so I've been binging recently. My list includes:

Superfreakonomics - Good read, I'd recommend it to just about anyone.

Nudge - I'm a little bit disappointed in this one, but for what it's worth the first half of the book focuses almost entirely on basic social psychology (one of my undergrad majors) so I thought it was a bit boring. It gets a lot better near the end. I also commend that they offer so many solutions to everyday problems we all face; paying mortgages, getting hired, saving for retirement. It's a way of thinking that will vastly improve the welfare of humanity.

What the Dog Saw - This is a complilation of stories by Malcolm Gladwell. Great read. I find that I keep going back and rereading articles.

Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters
- I'm almost done with this book and it's blowing my mind. It's a simple collection of evolutionary psychology studies with explanations as to what it all means... essentially. This book is changing my perception of the world in roughly the same way that learning about social psych did. This is not for the faint of heart or those who believe in the magical side of things.

And the three I haven't started yet are: Evolutionary Psychology (it's a textbook), Biophilia (by Wilson, I guess it's considered the bible in this field), and The Biophilia Hypothesis. These plus the one above are my primers for the next book I need to get my hands on which is called Biophilic Design. It's basically a way of designing buildings that responds to the fact that we are humans and that certain things make us happy; light, being near nature, certain shapes and sounds, etcetera. One of my professors, Harry Mallgrave, just so happens to be highly active in this area and it's really exciting because it's a very very new field that almost no one has exploited. Think about it. You need someone who's a psychologist and an architect (economics wouldn't hurt too) to design these studies and put them into practice. That same professor just came out with this book called The Architect's Brain, but it costs almost $100 so I'll be holding out on that one for a bit.

Anyways, that's what I plan to do with my M.Arch. and license.

IIT gave us these the first day of class. A bit presumptuous no?

27 December 2009

Brain Vomit

This is just a mild recap of my past few weeks. Where to begin...

As I was leaving for NC I got off my elevator (it was roughly 1 AM) and saw all the food collection boxes for donation to the needy. I peered over the edges and saw a bunch of free canned and boxed food. I have no idea how I restrained myself. Grad school is a bummer like that.

Speaking of which. There's a professor at my school from Germany named Werner Sobek. He first got PhD in structural engineering... in Germany none the less. So what happens when you have a PhD in structural engineering, are German, and hold the title of Mies van der Rohe professor at IIT? Well you're a bad ass, and you design a vacation home for yourself called R 128 that is entirely recyclable (the design uses mortise-and-tenon joints), all the building elements utilized are standard lengths so there is absolutely no wasted materials, because of this the materials are simply shipped to the site and assembled (further aided by mortise-and-tenon), the building produces all its own energy, and is totally off grid. O, did I mention that every item in the house is computer controlled? Here it is on Sobek's website, which is really worth looking at.

On the way to NC we (my mum, dad, and I) got stuck about 20 miles from our exit due to a blizzard. It was the worst they've had in a decade. Even if they did have plows no one knows how to drive in the snow there so they just kept getting stuck and running into one another, so we sat for about 10-12 hours. Luckily we had grapes and Evan's home brewed beer.

The cabin at night.

Night sledding!

I've been making several versions of this recently. It's an open faced sandwich on wheat bread topped with giadiniera (which literally translates to "female gardener" in Italian) covered by pepper jack cheese and onions, broiled, then covered with oregano and tomatoes.

My basil garden (this is right after I trimmed it) has become a bonsai garden of sorts. They're almost a year old and never get much over 18" tall. As a result of all the trimming their main stems are practically wood.

This was this weeks harvest.

This was the resulting pesto. For some reason you have to let it sit for a few days before it gets really good.

11 December 2009

Backlog of Links Part 1

Must read: the national debt clock runs out of zeros.

Must read: Nathan Mhyrivold (former chief tech officer at Microsoft) started an R&D group composed of chemists, chefs, and artists to produce... a cookbook - of scientific proportions.

Missle silo bachelor pad, must see.

3D fractal renderings (from Wired). I have some odd feeling that this is the distant future of architecture. Think about it... you could build an entire structure using the same mass produced piece, and accuracy would be nearly perfect.

Paul Krugman on why the Fed is powerless to do anything and shouldn't raise rates for a long time.

The Scots really do invent everything. There are actually a few I think they left off the list (for example the ghillie suite of WWI that snipers still use for camouflage to this day, the Scots used it to catch livestock poachers). I had been planning to write a whole long post about this, but apparently someone else has watched too much History Channel too and noticed that everything during the industrial revolution was invented by people from the poorest country in Europe.

A tour of the Leica factory... ugh. Anyone got $11,000 for one of those f .95 Noctilux lenses? They make one of the nicest 35 mm cameras and possibly the best glass (lenses) in the world.

New earthquake proofing technology in Istanbul looks impressive as hell.

Videos of rockets exploding during launch including a 1 billion dollar spy satellite.

Military Youtube... sort of. The military can record footage of an entire area, say a city, and if there's a bombing they can basically rewind the tape and see who planted the bomb...? Just read it.

Most sushi you eat isn't what it says it is. Many of the fish are from protected or over fished areas.

Interesting geodesic domes in California.

This has been a long time coming. Road trains. Safer, faster, more efficient.

Foreign Policy Magazine posted a collection of beautiful photos of slums.

Hahahaha, fuck Vista.

A movie gets pirated all over the internet, it's producers are ecstatic; finally.

This is mostly for my reference. Microscale chart... fun.

Wonkish developmental economics talk about the inability to explain growth in the third world - the drunkard's walk.

Scientists say waterboarding is bad... apparently people will tell you anything when they're being tortured.

Philosophical musings as to whether or not we exist.

Recession over - like 3 months ago.

Hilarious - dead salmon fools fMRI.

Plug and charge
, cool but... dumb. If it isn't cheaper than conventional energy, or somehow provides something that is more convenient then it won't work economically. Still interesting though.

Plants recognize and react differently to their siblings.

Nudge - how to make more people use the stairs. Psh, turn them into a piano obviously.

Someone finally won the Netflix Prize which was basically a million dollars given out to the team that could improve Netflix's own movie recommendation algorithm by more than 10%.

America's infrastructure is failing massively, not very surprising. Wired talks about the lack of any current "super projects" in the US and the America Society of Civil engineers say we need to spend 2.2 trillion dollars on infrastructure just to bring it up to par. Yikes... this is interesting to me because people don't realize how much these things affect everything. Roads, water, electricity - these are the basic things that allow America to have a strong economy. It's so basic it's painful.

10 December 2009

Winter Break!

I'm on winter break, which means I'm still going to school every day; like an idiot. The wood shop and dark room are empty so I've been making prints and picture frames out of exotic woods.

This one is African mahogany and is really small - about 6" x 5". Inside is a palladium print I made of my grandfather and his three brothers.

This frame is made of maple and is meant to hold an 11" x 14" print.

Here are the 8" x 10" prints I made. This one's Vija.

And some sailing in Chicago.

Next up is a massive bubinga frame for a 16" x 20" print, and for the first time I'm going to try to enlarge some 70-90 year old large format negatives. And I need to think of something to laser cut.