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

31 March 2013

Sunday Reading

My friend Alex showed me a site called data visualization blog called Flowing Data.

Natural gas prices are artificially low in the US because we're not allowed to export it. (I knew energy was getting too cheap, seriously)

Woodworking / design studio from Oregon called Phloem (relevant). Just great work.

Apple and Google difference in culture apparent from HQ design. Reminds me of this NYT article.

A very analytical person figures out how to make soylent (a drink that satisfies all your dietary needs).

Academic study comparing the actual economic views of Republicans and Democrats. Surprise, we're basically the same.

A visual guide to how the Federal Reserve works. Heavily bordering on wonkish.

Food is so expensive! American's spend less on food than any other nation on earth.

Animals are really smart, have feelings, etc. Continuing the trend of, we're just not that different from the other living organisms of this planet.

TED Talks

TED 2013 finished recently and they rolled out a new feature on their site where they prominently feature a new talk everyday. Thus far almost every one has been really good.

This is also a great example of how a tiny change to a website / product can make me many times more likely to use it.

These are the best talks I've seen recently:

19 March 2013

Idea a Day #3

This idea is less an idea and more just the first thing I'm doing when my woodshop is functional.

I have a problem with carelessly made furniture, so I make my own (see 1, 2, 3, 4). That's all well and good for me but I never sell my furniture beyond close friends because it'd be too expensive if I actually charged a fair wage - mostly because of labor. There's just no economy of scale when you're doing one offs. That's art. It's expensive.

If I made ten of any single piece at one time though... then the cost associated with each jig goes down ten fold. I have less material waste because I can buy a larger quantity, and while I'm making the individual pieces I only have to set the machines up once.

My idea is to do a Kickstarter for this piece and do a run of 5, 10, 20? Same wood, same size. I'm not sure about pricing or shipping, it greatly depends on the species used, but if I were to use walnut $400-500 seems about right (plus shipping) for a roughly 8-10 square foot table. If it's successful then maybe I could do bigger runs or offer options within each offering like different sizes and different species. Anyways, simple idea and low capital investment. Any payoff could be used to do the same thing at a larger scale and broader audience.

This has a comparable idea at a lower price point - The 10 Year Hoody.

18 March 2013

Idea a Day #2

People tend to put a bunch of stuff in their refrigerator that doesn't belong there and vise versa. Bananas turn black when left in the fridge, apples get too cold and get mushy if left to warm once taken out, etc. Eating well can be difficult as is so I'm always looking for ways to help myself make better decisions without requiring additional use of willpower (known as nudging). Hence, the need for a fruit fridge the main attributes of which would be:
  • Contents are visible from the outside and lighting is flattering to said objects. Hence a glass front. A triple glazed argon or krypton gas filled window would do the trick. The function of this is to make the contents more appealing. Presentation of both the contents and the interior of the fridge should have significant influence on your likelihood to eat fruit.
  • The temperature of this refrigerator would most likely be higher than your standard fridge which are usually set at about 34 degrees. Luckily this has been researched heavily. Humidity should be studied too.
  • Maybe there are separate sealed compartments for different fruits and there's an ethylene gas filter that keeps fruit from ripening - or the reverse. Say you want avocados to ripen quicker so you put them with ripe apples (and this is all figured out in an algorithm that you merely have to press a button to get near ideal settings) in one compartment.
It'd be interesting to design a few dozen prototypes then run a double blind study and see if it did in fact effect participants consumption of fruit. You could take what you learned and tweak the design to try to maximize the influence it had.

I'm aware this would add yet another device to the kitchen. As an alternative maybe this could just be a shallow compartment within the door of a standard fridge. An operable window to the outside could serve much of the function as what was mentioned above.

17 March 2013

Idea a Day #1

Like many people I have lots of ideas. Unlike most people I know that I won't be able to follow through on over 99% of them, which is also the hardest and most important part, so I might as well put them out there and hope that someone picks them up so that one day I can use the product I imagined existing. I'm considering doing this everyday for a month just because.

This is the most plausible one I came up with today.

I was selling something for a family member on eBay and going through the usual routine. I looked at the sale price of similar items sold and then averaged a few of them using a spreadsheet in Google Docs.
A simple spreadsheet I made in Google Docs that averaged recently sold similar items.
That'd be really cool if this was automated... for everything. What if there was a website that was a bluebook for everything? You could start by taking prices (automatically of course) from sold eBay actions and ranking them by lots of independant variables like condition, location, etc. You could do the same with prices from Amazon. Eventually you could pull prices from everywhere. I'm aware that some services already do something similar but let me expound.

Because of my (paltry) background in economics eBay has long fascinated me. In my opinion it operates about as close to Perfect Competition as anything; a few other real world examples would be commodities like corn, soybeans, etc. What defines perfect competition is very basically:
  • No barriers to entry or exit - on eBay all you have to do is set up an account
  • Perfect information - information can be found on just about any good via Google
  • Homogenous product - it's usually the case that there are already dozens of other items on eBay just like yours
So why not treat it like the market that it is? Something I find frustrating on eBay or Craigslist is people trying to sell items for near what they cost new. They will repost the item over and over never realizing that it's simply priced too high (same goes for real estate). This is known to psychologists as the endowment effect. Basically, people value something they own greater than what they would be willing to pay for the same object owned by someone else. Not logical but it's real, and the studies on it are fascinating. At the end of an art class participants would bid on eachothers art. Inevitably everyone would buy their own stuff.

Items on eBay and CL, regardless of format tend to fetch roughly same final price (with some caveats1), so why beat around the bush? Describe your item to said service, a price is generated, decide if it's worth it to you to sell it, and all the guesswork is gone. No more thinking your old laptop is worth 90% of what you paid for it.

Create a webpage where one can lookup the current market value of anything, new or used, available for purchase online by crawling the internet looking for the best sources for prices whether it be Amazon or completed listings on eBay. Treat it as a regression analysis where your model predicts prices, then compare them to real world data - refine your regression model over time. Someone else can figure out how to make money off of it. I just see it as a useful tool for providing more perfect information to buyers and sellers.

1 - Pennies from Ebay: The Determinates of Price in Online Auctions

13 March 2013


"Everything has been figured out, except how to live." - Sartre

Recently I was asked by an architect why I choose to shoot film. I gave an answer that was technical and spoke about lens size, resolution, quality, etc. It was a poor answer. I use film because the camera is simpler. I have complete control over what's happening. Film forces you to slow down and think. I only get a few photos and they're almost always better than my digital. Similarly, I draft all day on a computer. It's logically better than hand drafting in ever way much like digital cameras are to film. Yet many of the buildings produced this way appear dead in much the same way that digital photos lack life.

Our speech and subsequently our thought and understanding of the world is accomplished through metaphor; largely war and finance (George Lakoff and Mark Johnson). It's something I think about often. Our world is increasingly dominated by rational choice and I engage in this more than many, but it seems large and important issues are missed by this. Relevant TED talk.

This is my Dad's warehouse as it was being torn down.

02 March 2013

Sunday Reading

Interview with the pilot of the Enola Gay from 2002.

A star "only" 190 light-years away is about 14.5 billion years old making it about the same age as the universe.

PhD neuroscience grad Greg Dunn makes beautiful neuron inspired art.

An interview with Marshall Brown, a former professor of mine from IIT. His urbanism class was fantastic. It reminded me of my psych undergrad just making you skeptical of everything.

Natural gas is so cheap in the US that we need to export it. Granted that's not entirely legal yet.

Nice graphic of population density in the US.

A TED talk on data for international school performance, a tad dry but very good.

Architecture Software

One of the questions everyone asks in architecture school is, what programs do firms use? So here's my list.

For my professional work at Loebl Schlossman & Hackl:
  • Drawings in Revit. Sometimes with consultants we have to use AutoCad for coordination but not much.
  • Microsoft Word and Excel for spreadsheets and formal communication.
  • Outlook for email.
  • IE is still the standard browser...
  • Marketing, presentations, photos, etc. get done in Indesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator.
  • Project organization gets done in Newforma.
  • Mark-ups to consultants in Adobe Acrobat Pro.
  • Simple rendering gets done in Revit via their cloud rendering. For nicer stuff we use a consultant, usually from China.
  • For specs we use Specwriter.
  • Vision for billing, client management, and human resources tasks.
  • For file organization everything is just in folders with project numbers and a standardized set of folders (ie, consultants in, consultants out, SD, DD, CD, etc.).
For my personal work it's a bit different
  • Code review, organizing my documents/PDFs/specs, browsing, etc. is all done with Google products. I use Chrome with the Evernote Web Clipper extension. Evernote has really exceeded my expectations and is an incredible archiving tool. Everything gets a folder in Evernote which is shared with a link inside a Google Drive document. It's easy to to share, convert to multiple formats, collaborate with others, and it's stored in the cloud so I can have access to it anywhere.
  • Drawings get done in some combination of a Moleskin Squared XL (shut  up), Rhino (very fast and easy to work out ideas), and Revit. Sometimes I hand draft just because it's easier for me to work out problems.
  • Rendering is done with Maxwell Render as a plugin through Rhino. Maxwell just added support for Revit so that'll make life easier at some point.
  • Graphics, photos, etc. is some combination of Indesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator.
A few notes. AutoCad won't go away anytime soon, but Revit is the future.There are many criticisms but it's a very powerful program. Don't hate, adapt. Also, 3DS Max is the way to go with rendering if you use Revit. Rendering is very important in school and not very important in real life. It's not that simple of course. Renderings do after all sell jobs, but they're just not as important in a firm setting. The biggest difference between school and a firm is that everything needs to get done quickly. You can't make drawings in Rhino then adjust your line weights in Illustrator after every set you issue. You can, but you're not going to be compensated for your time. Figure out a work flow that works and figure out how to refine it. 90% of what I do all day is Revit > PDF > email for drawings or Photoshop/Illustrator > InDesign > PDF for presentations.