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29 July 2013

Ronan Interview by BUILD

An interview with Chicago architect John Ronan, designer of the Poetry Foundation among others, by BUILD - one of my favorite Pacific Northwest firms. There's quite a few gems in there.
You only have a certain amount of energy, and you have to be selective about what you expend it on. It has to be worthwhile, in the end.
Poets employ words that everybody understands, but they use them in new ways that make language unfamiliar. 
 It’s a na├»ve notion that architecture is the answer to social problems. Sometimes I see these architectural “ideas” competitions and wonder, is more architecture the answer? 
The goal of the process is to almost make it look like it wasn’t designed; we should arrive at a point where the “design” is invisible and not constantly referring back to the author. At the same time, the design should look so natural that people might think, why would you do anything else? The goal is to get to that point where the design feels intuitively “correct.”
I had Ronan as a professor during my final semester at IIT. It turned out to be one of the best classes I've ever attended, and this interview reminds me of his succinct yet slightly acerbic manner of speaking. If confidence were water Ronan would be Lake Michigan.

28 July 2013

Weekend Reading

Prostitution, porneia in Greek, was both much more rampant, accepted, and common in pre-christian Western societies. This whole post and any comment by /u/BBlasdel is worth reading. (Reddit AskHistorians)

Germany has the largest number of solar panels of any country and it's destabilizing their power companies. Watch and learn America. (Slate)

A Google engineer gets an award from the NSA, accepts it, then says they should be abolished. Then he shows up on Reddit and promptly does a fantastic AMA (ask me anything). (Tikkun.org)

The Greeks had MMA but it was even more brutal and was known as Pankration. It was the only sport not reinstated at the 1896 Olympics. (Wikipedia)

Scientists supposedly found out what's killing the bees in North America. Fungicides make them more susceptible to nosema. (Quartz)

Why homes are less advanced than cars. (GreenBuildingAdvisor)

Psychopaths, I think they mean those afflicted with antisocial personality disorder, can in fact engage in empathy. They just have to be asked to do so. (BBC Science)

The relationship between McDonald's prices and calories. Discussion. (Reddit DataisBeautiful)

There used to be a plant know as silphium that acted as birth control that grew around the Mediterranean. As with so many human endeavors, it went extinct as it proved too useful. (Wikipedia)

Who knew so many people were on food stamps? Roughly one in seven Americans is on food stamps. The average benefit is about $4/day. I found it pretty hard to eat for $5/day. (Washington Post)

For architects here's some longer reads: Energy Efficient Building Enclosures and Sound Transmission Through Gypsum Board Walls.

27 July 2013

Beautiful Objects

A while ago my dad gave my brother and I pocket watches that had belonged to various now deceased relatives. The one I received is from my grandfather - father's father.

He was a PT boat commander in WWII and supposedly used this to time patrols.

I did a bit of research googling and found some info on it:

Turn up the volume.

This video elegantly breaks down the complex workings of a mechanical watch to show how the mechanisms work together to measure time.

12 July 2013

Reddit AMA - Postmortem

Well damn. That was a bigger response than I expected. I responded to several hundred people and I still have about 250 to go. Unfortunately I did it on the same day John Malkovich was doing his AMA. By the way, it was very good.
It also must be said that the vast majority of [people] in the world live with nothing and with the hope of nothing their entire lives. I was lucky, as I've been my entire life.
Well stated. I always wondered if some of the truly fortunate know this of the world. As a healthy white male who is well educated and born to a loving family in America I try to acknowledge my extreme luck whenever possible. Anyways, data:

According to Google Analytics I received about 34,000 page visits in the span of about 12 hours while Blogger tells me I got about 21,000. Not sure why the discrepancy (Kevin?). Regardless that's about 40% of the visits I have ever received up until that point.

I learned a lot about what people are interested in and concerned about as well as what information more or less everyone is ignorant of. It's very easy to succumb to curse of knowledge bias by thinking that others know the basics of what you think is common knowledge.

I've started to compile a list of the most common questions from the AMA. I hope to turn this into a visual graphic that shows what areas of sustainable design people are interested in. More to come.

10 July 2013