Why Howard Laughed
Question: Will anyone read an architecture / cycling / global warming / peak oil / housing bubble bursting blog? Answer: Don't care, therapy is therapy. Looks like it's gonna be a long hard slog, uphill, into the gale, with rusty gears and a bad attitude.
Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Monday, May 24, 2010
You Done Good, Lost
The Internets are awash with angst as those who watched Lost but didn't understand, and those whose pet theories were disproved, are all venting madly. And then there are those who didn't watch but maybe a few episodes. Yet all are passing harsh judgment nevertheless.
I watched and enjoyed every episode like few teevee shows ever, and was continually impressed by the intelligence, complexity, and breadth of the mythology, character arcs, and narrative webs the writers wove over six years' time. Nope, they didn't answer but half the ten thousand questions they asked. But then how many network teevee shows ever even ask ONE good question?
In the final 15 minutes of the broadcast, after wrapping up one storyline, Lost resorted to a troubling hunk of spirituality in resolving the mystery of the sideways universe. But the deus ex machina reveal that offended so many was intended from the start of Season Six, so it wasn't really "deus ex machina" cheating. And really, I liked it because I confess that I contain a troubling hunk of spirituality within my own neural pathways.
Thursday, April 01, 2010
A Tale of Two Houses
$8,000 sounds like a lot of money. And it is. But let me show you one small example of what that money represents in terms that all of us can appreciate.
I had two architecture clients. Both client sets were a husband and wife team who chose me to design their new custom homes for them. Both had budgeted about $650K for the construction costs of their dream homes. And both couples had champagne tastes that had to be constantly moderated. Because although $650K sounds like a lot of money, and it is, in the custom home construction world, it doesn't go as far as one might hope.
The first couple knew exactly what they liked and what they wanted. Both husband and wife were quite opinionated, which actually made designing for them both fun and gratifying. And though my architectural fees are at the low end of the spectrum among architects in terms of percentage of construction cost, which mattered to them, they also talked to a number of architects beforehand, and determined that my design style was most appropriate to their own preferences. Selecting me as their architect was a double-win for them!
After we signed the contract, my fees were never an issue and they paid quite promptly.
The second couple only had a general sense of what they liked, and had a very difficult time both communicating their aesthetic preferences to me and evaluating anything I designed for them. I showed them lots of examples of my work and aesthetic preferences, but they seemed to prefer something else. They just couldn't tell me or show me what it was. Honestly, I'm not sure why they selected me as their architect, as they weren't communicative about any of their priorities when making decisions... though I was and am grateful that they did.
The husband of this second couple was also, like the first, quite confident... except that he was also outspoken that he could do my job if only his wife would let him. Yeah, right. That attitude will endear you to any professional you hire.
Nevertheless, as we proceeded with design, it became clearer and clearer that the second couple's champagne tastes were no match for their desires for an imported beer budget. Such that after I turned the drawings in for permitting and for bidding, they informed me that, in order to save $8,000 in architectural fees, they would cut me loose and do all the construction observation and management themselves.
This meant that Mr. Know-It-All would be up against the contractor himself, rather than relying on his architect to ensure that his dream home was built to design specifications. This also meant that although I would have literally worked four to five hundred hours for him during construction for that measly eight grand, he would have to do it all and decide it all himself.
What do you suppose happened with the two houses?
The photos above are perfect illustrations. Look at the two photos and compare them. Would it help if I told you that the two stairways were designed and detailed to be practically identical in terms of treads, risers, newel posts, rails, stringers, and balusters?
Look closely, I'll wait...
The floors in the top photo haven't been installed yet, but everything with the stairway is complete. That stairway is for the first couple, and except for the 8" square post at the bottom which varies in design with the second house, it has all the features EXACTLY as I designed them for both houses and EXACTLY as both clients wanted them.
But the second stairway does not actually HAVE them, you may have noticed.
The top stairway has a darker accent stain on the treads, as well as a few accents on the newel posts at the landing above. There are a forest of balusters, three per tread, and they are stained natural wood.
The second stairway has skinny, untrimmed, undetailed newel posts, thin railings, only two painted balusters per stair tread, and no stringer, which is the diagonal trim board running alongside the wall under the stairs.
See those differences? Again, I drew them both with the exact same details and specifications. And yet, all those changes were made by the second home's contractor to save himself some money, while the poor hapless homeowner probably doesn't even know what was compromised when he decided not to keep his architect on during construction to ensure that the contractor didn't cheat. No, I'm not going to tell him either. It's too late.
I only saw the photos of the second house very recently, after construction was complete. Except for this photo on the right, which turned out quite nice but is the only exterior the client has sent me so far, I am sick to my heart. Because I'm sure the whole house is filled with similar compromises.
I chose to be an architect because I want to design beautiful things that get built the way I design them for deserving and discriminating clients. That's why they wanted an architect-designed custom home, after all.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
The Party of No Is Alive and Naying
For God's sake, majority party Democrats*, grow a pair...
*and that includes President Obama.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
A Tale of Two Presidents
On December 22, 2001, a man with plastic explosives stuffed in his shoes got on a passenger airliner flying from Paris to Miami and attempted to ignite the bomb and kill all the passengers. He was stopped by the alert crew and passengers. The Republican President was on vacation at the time, and didn't address the issue until six days later, when he mentioned it late into a press conference. The press did not bring it up in any of their questions. No Democratic congressmen or American press were critical of the President's six-day delay, although one foreign newspaper questioned the delay, a French newspaper... where the flight originated. TSA rules regarding shoes were implemented.
On December 25, 2009, a man with an explosive mixture strapped to his balls got on a passenger airliner flying from Amsterdam to Detroit and attempted to ignite the bomb and kill all the passengers. He was stopped by the alert crew and passengers. The President was on vacation at the time, and didn't address the issue until three days later, when he held a press conference specifically about the bombing attempt. Numerous Republican congressmen and American press were critical of the President's delay, blaming his administration's incompetence and seeming disregard for the safety of American lives. Vice President Cheney was quoted as saying, "As I've watched the events of the last few days it is clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war. He seems to think if he has a low key response to an attempt to blow up an airliner and kill hundreds of people, we won't be at war." TSA rules regarding full body screening are now being considered.
That is all.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Desiderata For the 21st Century
Here is a MUST READ: The strangest, most compelling, daunting yet inspiring, true story I've heard in years, if not decades...
Monumental Instructions for the Post-Apocalypse
And here's a bit more from a Google Search for "Georgia Guidestones." The place appears to be quite the litmus test... and a flashpoint for a lot of deependers.
Post Script: I received a very interesting email from a friend after she read the article above, and even though it's quite long, everything she writes is quite well thought-out. So I'm gonna post it here for everyone to see...
Last night (early this am) I was finishing learning how to use my new camera and finally transferred photos to the computer. Then I find your [blog post] but it's 1:30am and I said to myself: I need to get to sleep and I am not going to do this now. Because I had some rather instantaneous and curious reactions. I believe I even felt my brain cells popping and crackling. I was reading/skimming along thinking "wait for it" "wait for it" and YES! It showed up. dammit. That fucking shit about December 2012.The very best college course I have ever taken was the multi-cultural awareness one I was forced to take to finish my little degree. I don't recall all the options but I jumped on the one concerning "the Americas". I love the universality of humans. There are supergigantic, super ancient structures everywhere. It is unfathomable that humans created them. There are "perfectly accurate" (re astronomy matters) structures all over the world. I am insulted on behalf of all past cultures that what little information I have read so far about this puny collection of pebbles in Georgia does not reference ancient parallels and hardly references anything except the 14th century whosits: rosicrucianism. Whom I have also never heard of before 1:30am. The only BCE (before common era) structure referenced: StoneHenge.What about all the other apocalypses that have already happened? The Aztecs literally wiped out in less than 80 years. So many civilizations around the world reached their zenith and then "disappeared". They disappeared because their successors (often conquerors) did all they could to destroy all evil evidence of the past. There are ancient civilizations that existed way back into the mists of time and they also left massive rock structures. The Aztecs found an ancient city that was almost perfectly preserved because it was in a remote, dry location. The Aztecs had no clue who in hell these people were...other than "obviously" they had to have been gods. That conclusion was made by the then-most highly advanced civilization (in the Americas) which was happening concurrently with the then-most-highly advanced civilization (in Europe). No wonder white people have long thought they are God's gift to the universe. They certainly weren't evolved highly enough to appreciate the wonders that "savages" had achieved. Which were pretty damn equal to the Europeans. Both had "god worship" with extremely similar power concepts; every possible contrivance re irrigation; architecture; etc. But in the Americas they did it without machinery, animal power, wheels. And were far more in tune with nature and their relationship to the planet. But then there always have been white people who extoll the value of "nature". They were and still are considered pretty much crackpots. Look at all the flack anyone espousing global warming gets. I probably am among those throwing stones at them simply by not taking enough [omg....buzzword coming up] proactive steps in my own little domain.I am all for mysticism and the wonders of the universe and the wonders here on earth and the possibility that we are all just a speck in that proverbial dewdrop on a fence in some unfathomable other existence. But the yahoos who paid for the Georgia Stones? Please. They are not even massive or particularly large. [I have] bigger stones. haha. Based on the climate/habitat they are located in....I guarantee you their message will not survive any apocalypse of Real Dimensions. Because kudzu will overrun the entire location in about 2 hours once any "caretakers" stop weeding the place.I absolutely believe in the Infallibility of Math. The incredible proofs of how ancient/medieval/modern people dissect the patterns of the stars and life here on earth are truly "awesome." It scares/pleases me to realize that every generation thinks it is just the damn smartest thing that ever existed. There have always been and currently are plenty of geniuses. There have always been and currently are plenty of whackjobs.I do not despise religion/belief systems because I find it reassuring that humans around the world are eerily similar. And that they have been all along. Not just since the internet showed up. I know. That must be shocking news to you. Isolated as you are out there on the Front Range and all. haha. That common thread through what little bit of eternity that I know about is a "proof" to me that there is a deeper purpose and destiny for humans. I really balk at the concept that Others are in charge. My "proof" there is that so many quack fringe people and their cults, when outed, invariably are a small group totally incapable of really pulling off anything in the big scheme of events. I also totally buy into, at the very least, Money Talks. The rest of us walk. Probably carrying The Money on our pathetic poverty-encrusted backs. (I glommed onto your "poverty encrusted [life]" comment of long ago because that is a damn funny/fucking truth.) Those are indeed the Others.Finally, I came to terms some time ago (possibly about 6-1/2 years ago? haha.) with My Truth: I do not have all the answers. I never will. This does not bother me. Because I truly believe that I will "know it when I see it." Because Chosen Ones always have been able to know it when they see it. So bring it on, 2012. But it had better give its best shot the first time because it will not get a second chance at me.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
The Journey of a Thousand Miles...
I dare you to look closely at this chart from a blog at National Geographic Magazine and NOT get just the teensiest bit angry...
Hahaha! Okay, You're not supposed to get angry at me as I'm not making a joke about how tiny it is. Of course, you'll need to click on it so you can actually SEE it...
Here's what it shows: Citizens of United States and Mexico are the only people of the countries shown here without universal health care. And yet Americans pay so much more for fewer than 4 doctor visits per year on average that we're completely OFF the chart. And for what?
The current health care reform that just passed the U.S. Senate is one step. But it'll come nowhere close to closing the gaps dramatically illustrated in the chart. We have to start somewhere, though, I suppose.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Oh Perfect World!
Scientists at UCLA are developing a system of using a modified bacteria, cyanobacterium, to convert CO2 into the liquid fuel isobutanol. Reduce excess CO2 in the atmosphere while generating liquid fuel? Wouldn't it be nice if something like this actually worked with some useful degree of energy efficiency in terms of EROI (Energy Returned On energy Invested)? I hope so.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Why Howard Laughed!
Friday, December 18, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
When Will Obama Pander to Those Who Elected Him?
"Just when I thought I couldn't despise Joe Lieberman more," I said to BalticTiger, referring to his single-handedly killing the Public Option of the healthcare reform bill wending it's way through D.C., and then single-handedly killing the expansion of Medicare to those between the ages of 55 and 64 willing to pay the insurance premiums.
But then I read the case being made by those more intelligent and almost as Progressive as I, that the healthcare reform bill that will be passed is still significant.
From Kevin Drum at Mother Jones, if it passes as it currently stands, here's what changes:
- Insurers have to take all comers. They can't turn you down for a preexisting condition or cut you off after you get sick.
- Community rating. Within a few broad classes, everyone gets charged the same amount for insurance.
- Individual mandate. I know a lot of liberals hate this, but how is it different from a tax? And its purpose is sound: it keeps the insurance pool broad and insurance rates down.
- A significant expansion of Medicaid.
- Subsidies for low and middle income workers that keeps premium costs under 10% of income.
- Limits on ER charges to low-income uninsured emergency patients.
- Caps on out-of-pocket expenses.
- A broad range of cost-containment measures.
- A dedicated revenue stream to support all this.
The individual mandate, requiring EVERYONE to purchase health insurance from one of the sleazier, corrupt, and -- no surprise -- unregulated industries in America is, to this blogger's mind, unpardonable. But it was necessary to gain the support of the insurance industry, we were told.
The backroom deals to Big Pharma, already one of the most profitable industries in America, next to investment banking, of course, were necessary to gain their support, we were told.
The change in Medicare reimbursement rates to doctors, whose unGodly high incomes eclipse income rates of doctors in all other countries in the world, and is one of three or four reasons why healthcare is so expensive in the U.S. compared to everywhere else, was necessary to get the support for healthcare reform from those doctors, we were told.
The gutting of the Medicare commission was a way of getting support from hospitals, we were told.
Provisions related to biologics, home healthcare, and the prescription drug doughnut hole were a way of getting the support of AARP, we were told.
And the inclusion of the Public Option was the means of getting support from Progressives who knew that without REAL competition from public sources, whose primary concern would be affordable healthcare rather than exorbitant profit-taking, that the last and best hope to get healthcare costs down would be lost.
But the insurance industry, not wanting to face this threat to their income stream, nay, income river, fought the Public Option, and aided with over $1 million in campaign contributions to Joe Lieberman, got what they wanted.
All these sops, all these give-aways, all this pandering to powerful industries and interests... and yet the only "compromise" in the entire healthcare reform bill was the one that directly addressed the problem of out-of-control healthcare costs because it took on the insurance industry head-on.
As for the Obama Administration's complicity in all this, Glen Greenwald says it better and with more facts and quotes than I ever could.
All the powerful interests got what they wanted. Except for the American people, who will continue to pay the highest healthcare costs of any country in the world.
Doesn't sound like reform of entrenched interests to me. Sounds more like re-trenching.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Shatner vs. Palin
This had me rolling in the aisles... if my study had aisles... or if I had a study:
Saturday, December 05, 2009
Eight Stunning Live Musical Performances
A friend on Facebook has been counting down his favorite new music of the last decade, one per day. And while it's a very personal list, as all lists like this might be, and while his list is heavy, in my opinion, with rap and hip-hop because he's quite a bit younger than I am, it got me to thinking.
Like everyone else on the planet, over the years, I've created a fairly extensive list of "Favorites" on YouTube. Going through them last night, I realized that my favs are heavy with live performances that just blow me away with talent, both in the instrumental musicianship and vocal power, but also in the composition of the music.
So I've created a radically diverse list of My Favorite Live Musical Performances collected over the years, and will share eight of them with you now (with ten "alternate links"), in no particular order. I have only one criteria: That each video showcase the best live performance of a most talented musician. All choices are based on my limited experience and judgment, of course. YMMV.
David Gilmour, Live in Royal Albert Hall -- Coming Back to Life: While Gilmour and Roger Waters were the spectacular composition duo of Pink Floyd, Gilmour's musicianship shone even brighter after the split. While I would highly recommend that you buy the DVD, here he is in total mastery of the guitar and of his voice:
(Alternate Link with David Bowie singing the Roger Waters part of "Comfortably Numb".)
Fargenbastich -- Even in the Quietest Moments: Anyone can cover a song written by someone else and post it to YouTube. And while most of these are amateurish at best, I found one fellow, Rick aka Fargenbastich, who is not a professional... but could be. The one flaw here: He doesn't write and perform his own music. Still, he has posted a couple dozen of his performances to YouTube, with this one my personal favorite, and he is an exceptional guitarist and singer. This is a beautiful song written and recorded in the late 70s by Supertramp, and Fargenbastich plays it perfectly on one of my most favorite instruments -- the 12-string guitar:
(Alternate Link, Fargenbastich covering the Beatles' "Dear Prudence", a very haunting and complex song.)
David Bowie -- Heroes: This song, written by Bowie three decades ago and performed thousands of times, still endures for me. This particular performance, with talented bassist Gail Ann Dorsey keeping things moving, is the best of the lot. Building slowly and surely until it reaches a crescendo with the audience bounding wildly out of their seats, this is about the butchest look you'll ever see the androgynous yet meaty-voiced Bowie sport:
(Alternate Link, music video "I'm Afraid of Americans" with NIN's Trent Reznor as The Stalker)
Nine Inch Nails w/ Gary Numan -- Metal: Since Bowie once toured with Nine Inch Nails, whose talent lies squarely on the shoulders of Trent Reznor, let's go here next. I recently came across this live performance of NIN at what almost appears to me to also be Royal Albert Hall. The camera swoops and dives around the stage through an other-worldly musical performance. Gary Numan sings and Reznor, who introduces Numan at the start, plays piano and some of the synth rhythms. Perhaps not NIN's best live performance available on YouTube, but as a concert video, it's one of the most hypnotic and mesmerizing I've come across:
(I'll give you two choices: Alternate Link #1 of "Cars" by NIN w/ Gary Numan or Alternate Link #2 of brilliant music-video AND the live version of "ONLY")
Paul Simon -- American Tune: Taking things in a completely different direction, here's a wonderful performance of my most favorite song by this American musical icon. Please disregard Dick Cavett, and for Godsake, stop it when the singing is through!
(Alternate Link of Marilyn Manson. Sorry, but his song and video are kick-ass.) (Didn't like it? Okay then, try this one, "Integral" by Pet Shop Boys)
George Winston -- Rain: I love the piano and wish I had learned to play. No contemporary musician has performed such moving and accessible music for the piano with satisfying melodies and mature, complex performances as George Winston. While I don't like all the "production values" that this video offers, the music just reaches into my soul and blows me away:
(Alternate Link of "Thanksgiving")
Bat for Lashes (Natasha Khan) -- Pearl's Dream: Here's a musician who is young and still obscure. But you'll be hearing a lot more from her in the future. She writes all her own music, and she performed a number of songs for KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic studio show. This is the best of the lot for me because I love me some rhythm. At 1:45, the drummer is left holding it all up with bass pedal backbeats, at which point the whole thing could have collapsed. But she takes charge and carries it through. Then at 3:05, everything just takes off and it's hard not to move with the rhythms:
(Alternate Link of "Siren Song" -- equally awesome, quite different, and perhaps more indicative of Khan's talent)
Thom Yorke on the Henry Rollins Show -- Cymbal Rush: This singer for Radiohead is utterly brilliant, of course. But here he does something that I've not seen too often. In a live performance, he stops and starts over. And it works wonderfully:
(Alternate Link to the music-video of Radiohead's monster hit "Creep"... when they were so very young)
There are a couple other live performances that have stunned me and left me speechless -- U2's performance at President Obama's Inauguration is one. Marvin Gaye singing the national anthem at the NBA All-Star game in the early 80's is another. And of course the Eric Clapton et al "Concert for George" DVD. But I don't know if they are available on YouTube, and this is enough for now.
I would love to listen to any personal favorites you have. Just post the links in comments... and if I love them as much as you do, I'll include them here!
See You in Copenhagen
Will anything become of this opportunity? I'll go ponder it while I go for a bike ride.
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Monday, November 30, 2009
Best Use of Beethoven's 7th
Another time-lapse video, this time of the Alps. This was shot by Michael Rissi, who writes: "A new series of timelapse movies which I recorded this summer and autumn in the Swiss Alps. Most locations are only reachable on foot, some need alpine hikes of 3-5 hours. I spent several weekends in cottages of the Swiss Alpine Club (SAC), where I shot these clips. The music is from Beethoven's great 7th Symphony, 2nd movement."