Monday, October 30, 2006

What makes a good work environment? It's being part of a larger event...for an architect, putting your mark on inspiring spaces. Not big, not finely detailed, but a space that matches the present day, in both needs and in relevancy. I cringe when some brilliant programmer comes up with a puzzle to help weed out the competition. If one had the time to do this, they would probably be using their spare time on a paying side project, or consulting. It says nothing about the ability to function in the appropriate environment.

Computer Scientist/Programmer
Join a team of extraordinary engineers ....

Most applicants solve one of these puzzles. Unless otherwise specified, you may use any language you like. Aim for clarity and efficiency. Please include your program's final answer in the body of your email, and please send code that actually compiles and runs so we can test it -- no pseudo-code please!

Tour the T

Given a T timetable, write a program to compute the quickest route that passes through every station on the Red, Blue, Green, and Orange Lines, ending at Kendall Square.


Your program should compute a route that visits all T stations at least once. A station has been visited if you stop there (to change to a different line) or pass through on a train. You may start at any station.

The supplied T timetable contains the definitive list of all T stations and the travel time between them. All trains in the timetable should be assumed to run in both directions. Assume that the expected wait time for a train at a given station is fixed:

* Red Line - 5 minutes
* Blue Line - 4 minutes
* Green Line - 3 minutes
* Orange Line - 2 minutes

For example, if part of your route includes changing from the Green Line to the Red Line at Park Street, you should assume that you will wait 5 minutes for the Red Line train to show up. You should also assume that the wait time is the same for all trains (e.g. you will wait 5 minutes for the Red Line to Braintree, Ashmont, or Alewife).

At the end of the line, you must get off the train and wait the appropriate amount of time for a train going in the opposite direction.

Include in your answer the total time to visit all stations, plus enough information to verify your solution. Sample output for a (suboptimal) route starting at Kendall Square might look like:

0:00:00: Arrive Kendall/MIT
0:05:00: Board Red Line Braintree
0:07:00: Arrive Charles/MGH
0:09:00: Arrive Park St
0:12:00: Board Green Line B
0:14:00: Arrive Government Center
0:17:00: Board Green Line B

Of course, your code should not be in any way specific to the Boston subway topology, but generalize easily to other data files, representing, say, the New York subway.

So, if one must go to the big G - what's wrong with being in management, or in administration? Nothing that I can tell.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Good and bad personalization

I found two examples of personalization in commerce, one good, one not.

A new pen - yes, the writing instrument - from OfficeMax has launched a massive (apparently) ad campaign in search of a "better handwriting". Well, with cursive being a lost art and all, one could argue that our writing techn(nique)ology is going to change dramatically over time. We are the first generation that will choose HOW we give information to our ancestors. Anyway, that's a speech for another time. This ad was cool, using flash and inserting handwriting that I wrote on a postage paid card. I was pleasantly surprised to see my scribbles in the animation, despite the tongue in cheek 'science':

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Contrast this to the individualized sayings that are now being printed on my pringles. What? I know 100% of our food is machine processed and engineered, but do you have to remind me at every bite? At least put something interesting on them, I don't really care about mass-music trivia. I urge the food scientists out there, get together with your marketing people and make something better. I'd love to see the ingredients listed on the ship, or how about the calorie content? That would be something.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Different than usual

I am not one to use this space to rant (and I haven't used it much lately), but here is my take on a Craigslist phenomenon that I can't stand.

The free listing for a "bag" of stuff. If it's in a bag, that might be the first reason you haven't been using it. If you just put it there, so what? I'm not coming for the bag -but if you are somehow trying to sell me something, the "bag" fact makes it seem totally against my expenditure of time to come get it. Even better, you have taken the time to list the contents of the bag, and I'm pretty sure something like a TV wouldn't even fit in a bag to begin with! So, will you be giving me a bag on the side? That might make it worth my while.

Example listing:

I have two big trash bags full of stuff I need to get rid of:

Plastic Totes

and tons more! I am located in Sharon, MA. I would like to get rid of this stuff tonight. If you'd like to pick it up, please reply with your estimated time of arrival. I will email you back, letting you know I'm going to put the bags outside and also to give you the address.

Why not just remove the bag from the equation and forget didn't excite me even for a second, ok? I'm still on the lookout for the empty bag listing as a followup...yes, they are reusable.

So, how is that for worthless blogging?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Urbis Romae

I while back, I wrote about the project going on at Stanford whereas the ancient stone map of the city once hanging in the public forum, was found crumbled, but mostly complete.  Well, like a large puzzle, it was slowly put together, using the help of 3d scanners, and there are suggested solutions available.  Well, so what?  It serves our left side geeky brain, but that is really it. We now just have a vision of the city as some biased, imprecise mapmakers thought it in the year 42 or whatever.  There is so much beyond to think about, to understand (such as the 1400 years that the city survived to the renaissance) that it may be helpful to understand the top down thinking at the start, but I'm more interested in bottom up.  See, for example (only conceptually) these procedural texture methods are fascinating.  Using Free agents, can one generate Rome, pardon the phrasing, in a day? Hey, it's an idea.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

I didn't write this, but somebody did...

Perhaps one of the most interesting and colorful phrases in the English language today is the phrase "Snakes on a Plane". It is the one magical phrase, which, just by its sound, can describe pain, pleasure, love, and Samuel L. Jackson.

In language, "Snakes on a Plane" falls into many grammatical categories. It can be used as a verb, both transitive (John snaked Mary on a plane) and intransitive (Mary was snaked on a plane by John). It can be an action verb (John really snakes on a plane), a passive verb (Mary really doesn't snake on a plane), an adverb (Mary is snaking-on-a-plane interested in John), or as a noun (Mary is a terrific snake on a plane). It can also be used as an adjective (Mary is snaking-on-a-plane beautiful) or an interjection (Snakes on a Plane! I'm late for my date with Mary). It can even be used as a conjunction (John is ugly, SNAKES ON A PLANE, he's also stupid). As you can see, there are very few words with the overall versatility of the phrase "Snakes on a Plane."

Aside from its R-rated-because-that's-what-the-fans-demanded connotations, this incredible word can be used to describe many situations:

1) Surprise -- "What the snakes on a plane are you doing here?"
2) Fraud -- "I got snaked on a plane by the car dealer."
3) Resignation -- "Oh, snakes on a plane!"
4) Trouble -- "I guess I'm snakes on a plane now."
5) Aggression -- "GO SNAKE YOURSELF ON A PLANE!"
6) Disgust -- "Snake me on a motherfucking plane."
7) Confusion -- "What the...snakes on a plane...?"
8) Difficulty -- "I don't understand these snakes on a plane!"
9) Despair -- "Snakes on a plane again...."
10) Pleasure -- "I couldn't be happier if I had snakes on a plane."
11) Displeasure -- "What the motherfuck is going on here, snakes on a plane?"
12) Lost -- "Where are we going and why are there snakes on a plane?"
14) Retaliation -- "Up your fucking snakes on a plane!"
15) Denial -- "I didn't do it. The snakes did. On a plane."
16) Perplexity -- "I know everything to do with it, if it has anything to do with Snakes On A Plane."
17) Apathy -- "Who really gives a snake on a plane, anyhow?"
18) Greetings -- "How the snakes on a plane are ya?"
19) Suspicion -- "Who the fuck are you, snakes on a plane?"
20) Panic -- "Let's get the snakes on a plane out of here."
21) Directions -- "Fuck off, snakes on a plane."
22) Awe -- "How the snakes on a plane did you do that?"

It can be used in an anatomical description -- "He's got a motherfucking snake up his motherfucking plane." It can be used to tell time -- "It's five snakes on a plane thirty." It can be used in business -- "How did I wind up with this job? It's snakes on a plane!" And of course, it can be maternal -- "Motherfucking snakes on a motherfucking plane."

The mind fairly boggles at the many creative uses of the phrase! How can anyone be offended when you say, "Snakes on a Plane"? Use it frequently in your daily speech! It adds to your prestige.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Pandora is great, but...

I hadn't realized the seriousness of listening to streaming music before, until I was trying to get my Pandora web player to skip a few songs ahead.  Well, apparently, you can only do this a couple times per hour, due to "licensing" restrictions.  The FAQ tells me this:

Our music licenses do not allow us to let you back up the music to replay a specific song.

Oh, and don't try to game the system by repeatedly opening and closing the window, because the following language appears in the EULA:

The Pandora Services utilize technology to protect transmitted digital information. Your use of the Pandora Services may be limited by such technology. You acknowledge that, from time to time, Pandora may modify or discontinue using such technology. Security modifications made by Pandora may from time to time include required or automated updates, modifications, patches, and/or reinstallations of software. IF YOU ATTEMPT TO VIOLATE OR CIRCUMVENT ANY SYSTEM OR NETWORK SECURITY COMPONENTS OR TECHNOLOGY, YOU MAY BE SUBJECT TO CIVIL OR CRIMINAL LIABILITY.

What gives? Because I can't really decide what I listen to, this is OK?  Thank you sir, may I have another?

He's just ruffling feathers

I would like to offer a counterpoint to the idea that Tony Long at Wired presented. It's not about the means, or the medium.

All art that doesn't involve using one's hands (digital processes, for example) still needs to be judgedd by it's full integrity and product. The working definition of 'art' that I use - highlighting issues. If you aren't doing this, then it just isn't art - it is a pretty picture. Perhaps the author was focusing on his antiquated ideas that are rooted in 70's elementary school art rooms. Please cut your angels out more carefully next time! There is a certain opportunity for accident to shape your final work when using something like a stop bath, I admit. You can dodge and burn as long as you want, you can also underexpose, rip the paper, stomp on it, or light it on fire. Does this make it better? I work by recognizing accidents for the better, and I see this in sketchUp all the time. You stretch a line and it goes too far - instant addition! In all seriousness, however, it happens.

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Nobody ever said that classical painting has a digital equivalent. 3d animation has no renaissance equivalent either. In fact, the real difference that you are trying to establish (perhaps a superiority?) is that arts where the medium and materials are controlled by the elite or wealthy are more, I don't know, permanent? Why aren't there more frescos surviving from the Romans? Because the right to work on them was given to a select few (not in their house, of course). Digital art is almost entirely free and accessible to literally everyone. Yes, literally. As long as an internet connects several computers, it is possible to transfer art.

Finally, someday, every work of art, from the Mona Lisa to your powerpoint presentation last week will be easily reproducible. If every strok of a paintbrush could be stored, precisely, we could make as many of them as we want. Diamonds are soon-to-be plentiful, bandwidth, storage and processing are becoming free in parts of the world (not my country though). So, what about storing all art as a series of instructions, does thinking about it from this point of view change your mind?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

a man only knows how to build a house once he has built a house

Words to live by. That it is houses is irrelevant.

Furthermore, the paradox of going to school for real skills - animation, drafting, materials, coding, means that you are devoting time that could be used for learning buisness, making contacts, or starting on your own. We need to get away from the educate-for-everything mentality.

Friday, August 11, 2006

What's next?

It's no easy choice.  The numerical world is where I am at home.  I crave the cost per cubic foot numbers that my real estate agent presents.  Sure the view of the cruise terminal is fantastic, but we got a great deal!  I like seeing baby pictures, but videos make it even better, especially when they are on youtube.  Accountants wish they had my number crunching skills.  I may only be getting married so that I can make a spreadsheet (and of course plot on Google Earth) the addresses of invites and hotels.  Oh, and the graphics.  So, what the heck am I doing here now?

Friday, June 30, 2006

old vs. new

I'm not in the same boat as this guy, but I see both sides. Long ago I realized that I had an advantage over the present MySpace crowd. I was older, and I understood the cultural, technical, and consumeristic phenomenons that produced such massive networks of users (my space, WoW, flickr, technorati) but I wasn't a thriving, blogging idiot. Then I became one. I bought $my, I joined slashdot, and post frequently. I moved up to moderator on a board where my professional exams are discussed, and finally, I started this stupid journal.

Well, it's good to share, but there is something about it where we aren't keeping anything to ourselves any more. This is fantastic when we want to gripe about our cell phone contracts, share a tidbit about how to fix my DVD player, get the episode of the Sopranos that I missed, or find a job. But, don't we need a middleman sometimes? We are specialized people, and I want my wedding to be individual. If I could afford it, I would hand it over to a professional. I don't want to download the weddingMaker flash applet and let them fill in the blanks. It's not how I want social networking to affect me. My job is to assist owners of homes with renovations, but in more and more cases, the client comes in with a computer model of their own. This used to be the clear qualification, if one were to draw a constructable building, they needed to be able to operate the software.

Well, it is really only a matter of time before there is a virtual architect that does it for you. We send more and more faxes (yes, the paper kind) directly to the client for approval. It is likely that they are able to understand what they are looking at, and capable of responding. It's not that my job doesn't pay, it's that it is no longer respected/appreciated/revered/delegated to, or whatever word you want to hear.

Oh, and there are more architects every day. Older professionals aren't used to giving way to others knowledgeable about the craft, but we aren't really different than doctors who won't transfer a chart or lawyer who shreds important documents before a trial.

I am concerned that the social network that takes advantage of sharing information (effectively turning every transaction into a us and them) has the ability to reinvent the profession into a consultant role, tapping into knowledge rather than our current state of document-tender. Perhaps this is a better system, maybe not. Can you live with it?

Friday, June 09, 2006


So, it's been on the mind. There was a 2002 discussion about my situation at the Disney forum board chronicle the policy they have towards Catholic weddings. I would never want a ceremony on the shores of a styrofoam lake, but the point is taken. The diocese can do whatever they want. But in this case, they are heading it off:

Often times a priest can be found who will participate in this type of wedding in a non-church setting. In most cases, there is some flexibility but in the case of WDW and Las Vegas actual rules have been established.

I don't know about one at Mohonk, but I'd bet that it is similar in the eyes of the church. It's a destination, albeit a spiritual, secular one. The incentive for me is not my attraction to the place, but Emily's. It is only the place that she has dreamt about since she was a little girl. That is some tradition and motive, and I really want her to be happy. So, with the extent of my expectations combined with my conservative upbringing, I have a crisis.

The solution just may be to have a small Catholic ceremony followed by the real one at the destination. I hope this does not relegate the second one to second-best, and that will be a struggle. At this juncture, though, I can't find an alternative that will please everyone, or anyone.
Because of logistics, we're having two weddings. Our parents will be the only witnesses at the first one; the second will be more like a traditional wedding, with a big guest list and a reception. I'm afraid people won't show up for the second one if they find out it's not a "real" wedding, but my fiancé's mom and dad are really pushing for us to go public with the news. What should we do?

While you shouldn't mislead your guests, you also aren't compelled to take out a full-page ad in your local paper. Your in-laws can tell whomever they like; you don't have to make a peep (but if somebody calls to get the whole story, you'd better come clean).

To ensure that everyone who attends the large celebration knows what lies in store, word the invitation as a vow renewal. (Your stationer or an etiquette book will have examples.) And don't worry—friends and family are sure to understand the circumstances and will be glad to celebrate with you whenever they're invited.

So, bring on the double wedding. Twice the fun!

Monday, April 10, 2006

real estate

Two months going over the market in Boston, and what they tell me about the 'bubble' is all true. One simply cannot find housing in this city, whether it be a small corner of a larger building partitioned into a smaller box. Those are $450-$500 per sf. The better spaces in the nicer areas easily rocket into a higher bracket of $700-$800 for each square foot of livable floor area. Can you stand up in it? Perhaps. Can you live there? Possibly. Is it up to code? Absolutely not.

I've seen bedrooms that have no exits, more crappy vinyl windows (Harvey) that overlook vacant lots that are cleaned ("the cleared area is deeded to your unit"), disguntled sellers listing at $value_of_house + 35%, free flat panel televisions included because a regular tv wouldn't allow you to pass in the living room/hall, 20-year old kitchens advertised as new, acrylic floors hung with

but that's not the biggest problem. you are competing with everyone who is now a housing millionaire, and you are using play money. Furthermore, this puts you under the auspices of a "risky borrower", and you are instantly at the ercy of anyone else, even if you are offering more. Why? Well, they had a house before, they're simply older, or there is another reason. I have seen new luxury lofts where an open house was overrun by seemingly younger couples that us, who are seriously considering the larger units, for $600k+. What am I doing wrong? There are too many to be a lottery winner, or a dot commer, this is a TREND. And I missed it. Capitalism can suck sometimes.

So, what I am going to tell you now is a secret, but the latest dream home may be the one that puts me over the edge. A new career awaits. That, or the trip through affordable housing, downpayment assistance, family begging for a few thousand (which will be the extra .5% that gets us into "safe" loan territory). And if I, god forbid, pick the wrong neighborhood, I could be on the hook for it all. The quest for equity should be a sure thing, but it won't be, I know.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

I wanted to...

write a post about Toll Brothers and their new antics, but everyone knows what I would say, so why bother? Go read about it anyway.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

real estate is the new food?

separating the have and have-nots? As a have-not, I am starting to agree, however shortsighted this sounds....from some guy at Curbed.

lessons from unexpected places

Sometimes you read something, or hear it from someone, and it is a bigger deal than it shoudl be. Someone who I once knew, and then recently found again on the internet, is going through a lot. Perspective sometimes comes when you don't welcome it, and this is what is going on over there, too much concentration and not enough big picture.

So, there must be a medium ground for advancement. Not everyone who goes out and makes a difference is a solitary introvert, yet there are only so many net hours available to go around. Is this what the opportunity to take a break from professional life known as academia is for? You need to devote to something, but not every venture that comes along. Lesson learned.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Buyer's buyer's agent

I have the perfect description of my next house:

It's a loft, with high ceilings, and concrete floors, plenty of closets (not for me, for her), an expanse of walls that I can build storage on, a small bathroom with a large tub, tall windows, an outdoor terrace, no, a full yard for the dog, quiet windows that let lots of fresh air in, concrete floors for flexibility, decent appliances but not great ones, I might want to replace them, you know, a good location in the city, near coffee shops, cafes, and restaurants, an easy walk to the train, plenty of parking if I have to have a car to get to work, an active neighborhood, a gym nearby, a beach to walk the dogs (why not two?), and all this for $225,000.

Why is this so difficult?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Oh well.

So I didn't win the $260 mega million this time, someone in the heartland of Ohio did. At least this means an end to all the hoopla and a return to your normal $10-15 million jackpots. Whew, that was crazy there. I actually had to figure out how to use those little scan sheets and interact with the clerk from 7-11. That might be the biggest lesson out of it all, don't ask them anything. They can make you feel idiotic and superior at the same time.

I was also struck by something completely unexpected, as I was pouring over an email real estate listing for condo units nearby. There are advertisements in my email, which is no different than anyone else. I, however, actually used one, and found that something that some agency has placed through Google adwords will help me. Now that is truly groundbreaking. It's certainly better than the first banner ad.

Of course, our lives will be full of ads soon, and our senses are able to filter most out, but when they are text-based, nearby similar content, and most importantly relevant, then they have a chance. Like basketball fans who wave their Thunderstix in a random, unsynchronized pattern at a free throw shooter, it is all visual white noise. It easily goes away, like magazine ads, billboards, and especially big flashing Flash movies all over. The lesson is that being different is key. Recently, IKEA has hired a more liberal ad agency over other Danish firms, Welcome to Orange County is relatively unknown, but seems to have a grasp on a younger, more modern/aware demographic. Also, a good idea in advertising is KFC (the chicken place) giving free food to anyone who cares enough to tape their commercial and play it backwards. How much is your time worth?

Anyway, the ad that inspired me was pointing to the Boston Redevelopment Authority (they call it the BRA) and their below-market housing system right alongside my email listings for overpriced Boston housing. It is a city program that helps people like myself get into housing and build equity, but we are prohibited from selling at a significant gain. I think the tradeoff is acceptable, as I may be able to afford something that I couldn't otherwise, and may be somewhat insulated from bad market fluctuations. Thanks Google ads! You just saved me $90k!

Friday, February 24, 2006

Lottery speaks to our inner random

The site has a pre-, or post-determined set of time codes. If you run a search and are the closest to the magic time, you win a prize. Randomness is always a logical vacation, as you can analyze outcomes in statistical fashion, at the conclusion of a trial, or you can run a simulation of a number of events and see which is the most likely to happen. This will show you tendencies, but never the specifics of any one run over another. This is why random numbers are so important.

There is a series of 5 traffic lights that I drive through daily. They are spaced so that it is impossible to hit every one green, and most times you will be stopped several times. Occasionally, there is a backup, as the cyclical rotation of each has come into alignment to stop more cars earlier in the sequence. For each one of these days, though, there are 3-4 easy days. Does it depend on the time I am traveling through? Probably not much, as traffic between 5:30 and 7 is pretty constant on those roads. The key variable, I have noticed, is the second light, which is timed to operate with sufficient traffic backed up on the side street. Out of all these pseudo-random outcomes, there is a seed - how many cars are traveling on side street x. It must drive the planners crazy.

I will be buying a lottery ticket tonight. The Mega Millions jackpot is up to $205 million, a reward that starts to justify the one dollar risk. What is my chance of winning? 1 in 175,711,536
So what's the big deal? It's just like blingo, the closest time to that random time where the correct seed in the terminal at Quality Kwik Gas will produce the correct numbers is doubtlessly going to happen once or twice before the drawing. To me, it beats putting the chore in my own hands and accepting the blame of defeat.

As someone on Fark put it:

2006-02-20 11:32:47 PM Incontinent_dog_and_monkey_rodeo

Actually, playing the lottery in a very controlled way is an intelligent thing to do. The trick is, you have to follow 2 basic rules:

Only ever buy ONE ticket for any given lottery. You increase your chances from zero to some insignificant chance. That is effectively an infinite increase in your odds of winning. Combine that with the pleasure of imagining what you'd do if you won and it's worth the dollar.

Only ever play lotteries where the payout is truly life altering. $5000 max scratch tickets are a tax on people who can't do math. $50,000,000+ lottery payouts for a $1 entry fee are worth taking a risk on. Given that no one can feasibly play more than 5-6 $50 million+ lotteries a week, the $5-6 expenditure (tops) doesn't seem unreasonable.

If you play more than one ticket or play small time payouts, you probably don't understand statistics very well.
I agree. My mental health has to be taken care of too.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

All of our problems are solved!

I sometimes read the column "overlawyered" when I am in a conservative mood. Torts are going to kill us all, so let's at least have some humor about them in the meantime. Since I didn't become a lawyer, opting for the lowly architect role, I stand to lose a deal, a company, or a project because of some overzealous lawsuit in the future, especially that I now have an identity in the world through the application for a licence. I fear an environment that prevents advancement. Whether it be patent trolls, historical commissions, or personal injury scouts. The profession shudders, and every line I write now goes through my own personal libel filter. It's outrageous and preposterous.

In fact, a lawyer who is a client right now has threatened legal action against my firm for failing to keep billings in line. We are out there putting out asses on the line preventing his historical renovation project from collapsing onto the town administrative offices (oh the irony) and he thinks his bill wasn't negotiated correctly. Well, I can only imagine that what he charges for one hour of his time is what I am billed out for an entire day. Not to knock the legal trade, but what do people think we do? Architects are the decendants of the master builder, balancing gravity, proportion, the regulations, and cost. There are situations where we aren't needed, but many where it is vital and a public hazard to not use one.

Anyway, so we are underpaid, overworked, and scoffed at by builders, clients, and officials. Oh well, I'll just file a trivial suit against my alma mater for failing to inform me of these pitfalls. I can only hope for a settlement. $2 million should be good.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


I wanted to use this space to recap my favorite super bowl commercial from the last week, but alas, I can't remember what exactly it is. Oh well.

So, a little about randomness and luck. There has always been a close link between architecture and the concept of random placement or location. The earliest that I recall is a now infamous first concept for Milstien hall at Cornell university, a boxy design that fell under the "cube within a cube transforming itself to something else through the use of a fourth dimension" and I use quotes extremely liberally there. Anyway, this design was a 3-4 story box enclosed in structural channel glass (profilit) with stacked critique space at the core. It seemed somewhat unique at the time, until just last week when I noticed the new architecture building at the Pratt Institute done by, you guessed it, the one and only Stephen Holl and Associates. Well, we know what happens to old sketches when they are done with them at this office, they're not shredded. Anyway, the part that changed, aside from the whole thing being a tad shorter, was the substitute of the one side that used scattered fenestration on the Cornell building with a series of Reidfeldesqe metal windows at pratt. The most intriguing part of this move, in my mind, is that the Cornell building was given windows and creases on one elevation that were based on the coordinates of a random number generator. At the time this was something that I found absolutely fascinating. How does one justify such a complete distrust of their own academically trained design eye to hand over a whole facade to a module of java 2.1?

At Cornell at the time, and still, it is widely accepted as something approaching fact that there are only three modules that have any credence. The famous le modular man of Mr Corbusier, the golden ratio, and the peter eisenman nine square grid. You can check out the establishment of the latter in the watershed pamphlet Five Architects, in which such names as Meier, Graves, and Hedjuk use this as the ONLY generative base. Peter is still doing this in new construction even. So, I saw this a widely unpopular strategy, and would have expected the more cardboard designs of Billie Tsen or Thom Mayne to prevail in the closed competition.

Well, if the design was a congressional bill, random numbers would have been the language tacked onto the end extending illegally the Patriot Act. Nobody noticed, and I was angry.

I just want to add at this point that no number generated by a computer is truly random, as everyone knows. Pseudo randomness is fine for purposes of anything that is visual, right?

Well, there are limits, obviously over al large sample area, the eye can begin to sense patterns even where no other stimuli tells us so. This is why we are always using tiled patterns at an angle in our renderings, and asking for "random" interference in our bump maps. Because we believe that the world is more random than he world in the computer, and we are right. I think back to the movie pi, in which Max has found a shortcut to the future of the stock market. The answer is that organic matter contains the tendencies to be introduced to a silicon computer that can be used to replicate the market - a human controlled affair. Far from the butterfly effect, this is indicative of the ability of any living thing to be more and thoroughly random than a computer. Hotbits knows this, and so do many cryptologists. Why don't designers and architects?

Our built world is random, and so is the mind. Computer languages frequently have number generators, but this is only as good as what you seed it with. This is the value of the architect to come and design your house. Otherwise toll brothers would be building everyone's trophy mansion. The qualities of design are far more intangible that the rule based permuations possible from an online floorplan applet. And obviously there is only relevance on a flat site. The flash code still doesn't know what to do on a renovation, or when there is a hill.

To this extend, we are still in the early age of AI software that doesn't' learn, it just reacts and solves problems through brute force.

And I know that we have a long way to go from a coding standpoint. We cant even may a shuffle play on my stereo that doesn't play the same song twice in a row. What hope do our facades have?

IDEA: Test showing actual random colors and pseudorandom colors could show this. I think. I will update with this applet shortly.

Yet another example of the digital analog disparity can be seen by google's location of the prime meridian. Hmmm.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

is 192 the next Vegas strip?

On a recent trip to central Florida, I couldn't help but realize the glaring new similarities of new development in south Orlando to the worst examples of roadside Americana that I have experienced. It's not just that things are flimsy, covered in Dryvit, and haphazard to each other. It's a fundamental attitude of "Me too!" for every business, outlet, and structure that is within x miles of the first attraction of note-Walt Disney World. But without the oversight of the Disney infrastructure, Joe business owner is stuck doing what he can afford on his own site, which can be a alligator petting zoo, an orange store inside a giant orange, or a 26 story Sheridan resort. It's whatever one can build cheaply, that's the only rule.

Before I get lost in a world of timeshare sales and chain restaurants though, I wanted to reinforce that there are different ways that we experience these areas. And I don't mean locals vs. tourists either. Sure, it's possible that many visitors go to the happiest place on earth and don't care what the impact, or "footprint" to put it another way, is. But it's not insignifcant. Think of the people who staff these resorts, drive the busses, and live and die on the sales they push onto unsuspecting tourists of flowers, glowing bracelets, oranges, timeshares, and golf garbage. I know it's an industry, but it's one built on adjacency and distraction. I would recommed the book Married to the Mouse for more on the impact on nearby residents.

The real vacation for some, and life for many, is the retail strips and absolute rule of sprawl.

I could see in the coming years route 192, which runs E/W, to be more and more overrun by the symbols of American corporate ownership, and eventually transforming into a destination all of its own. Compare Las Vegas Blvd. of 20 years ago to today's. You can see similar trends in land value on the strip vs. that immediately nearby. The value falls off immensely within a few miles of Disney World. In my recent trip, also, I saw local residents crusing the road, from mile marker 8 to mile 10, the most densely settled area. Convertibles and chopped Civics were the most common sight. So, what is land worth, and why does my round of golf cost $139 on a weekday? Answers that I just don't have.

Next time: The pattern of Disney hotels, an atrium with two 3 story wings enclosing a courtyard. Insert zebra/tree/geyser/bonfire/christmas tree, repeat.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Verizon would know how many

Verizon would know how many of up keep phones on by watching our Gps-enabled Devices hit each tower below. Not Driving 500

Thursday, January 26, 2006

what is on thy mind?

My girlfriend asked me recently if it looks like we want the same things out of life. My immediate answer was, yes, we do, it's just that our schedules are a little wacky and they don't mesh so well. She teaches little tykes all day, and I deal with contractors and cad software during that time. It's what I like to contend with, and the hours fit me fine. The problem is that I don't finish up until early evening, and when I come home, I like to do a little research, write, watch a show, or read a magazine. She wants to do family-type things: elliptical machine at the gym, cook a carb-free 3 course meal, discuss the day, etc. Unfortunately, that's what I would prefer - at 11pm when she is fast asleep.

Time recently published an article about this, and I was shocked that there are specific categories of night and morning people, and that it's generally an all-or-nothing proposition.
I tried to change after college, going into work earlier, bringing a gym bag to work, stopping at the store for some vegetables, but it just didn't make me happy. I was fighting it all the time. I really only felt at home when I was teaching a class, working full time, and playing pickup hockey at midning weekdays. That is my prime, and I loved the feeling.

So, does this come down to family life vs. career life? She wants to have a routine that closely matches what she was raised with, three square meals, naps, and American Idol. I want to have a highly varied schedule that lists academic lectures, discussions, recreation, one TV show a week, design and fabrication, and a continuation of everything that was "life" in the past, before I started working. It's not exclusive of family, yet it always feels that way.

Also in the spirit of rejuvination, I really am hoping to embrace the inner nerd again. Two things have sparked this. One, is the discovery of the open source housing project, house_n, and the media lab, and the people over there that look at the industry like I do. I am no longer feeling like architecture needs to be #1 in my life. Sometimes the glossy magazines and the starchitects just make me sick. I used to have pride in finding a rare house or bus stop done by some famous designer. Like I "collected" it or something. But, I have a near-repulsive attitute toward the sigularity of these projects now. I see the effort that goes into it, and the coutless others that make it happen. These are the ones who should be rewarded, but instead it's the golden boy that drew the thumbnail. What a sham. Even worse is the desire by millions to ascend to that role. You see it in the interns and graduates in any architecture office. Dress the part, be hyper- brash, promote your design skills, and pretend you are better than the draftsmen. This is the part of architecture that I was dragged into, and I had in my starstruck eyes for most of my education years.

Well, the trigger was finishing the exams, all nine of them, and realizing that the common architect, the one who knows the stud spacings, the moment connections, the earned hour rate, the curtain wall loading, etc. is the real deal. These people are overworked, underpaid, and have aspirations to be the designers and rainmakers. But, like in any business, it's not going to happen for everyone. And now that I see this outlook, I have realized that I use very few of my skills in what I am doing. I have several computers that I know how to dual-boot, make software do most anything, and even use my ham radio licence to get GPS coordiates of where I am sometimes (this is the other thing that triggered my recent discovery). This is all quite dorky, but it's what I know, or KNEW.

So, this came off more like a venting, but as I approach the end of my internship to become a real live architect, it seems somehow like that door is closing. Or to be more appropriate, it's a long hallway with several side exits. I don't want to go through the one I am destined for, but there may be a much more rewarding way out.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The new camera is here

And I have to share this image with someone. 8 megafrickinpixels quality compressed for the internet (at original size though)

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Maybe I'll just go and switch to

Ok, so shoot me. I tried it, after at least two years of hype, the monochromatic commercials, the press, the DRM debates. As I speak now, I see it on the television (go Seahawks!) as a 20 second spot, strangely enough, adjacent to a competitor's ad. The "thing" is the iPod. The "service" is iTunes. And yours truly is now a member.

It wasn't an impulse event, no, that isn't really my style. I have always been on the purist side of the fence. I say, go buy the CD, then you have it, and nobody can take it away. As long as you don't damage the original or sell it, it's yours. And you also don't have to read the news every morning to find out if you will be getting sued for what you listen to. Now I can live with a shelf that holds my compact disks. Remember what that looked like? It's very refreshing.

Well, my foray into the world of Apple was triggered by their recent contract with NBC to show the Office as a download for $1.99 the day after the original airing. This is great, I was thinking, until I saw the quality of the video. Strike one. It is also stored in a proprietary format, and as I have learned, locked into the computer that you buy it on. Strike two. This sucks, frankly. I happened to buy my first episode before heading on over to a friend's house, and I expected to be able to download it over there. Well, simply, this was not the case. I got this message, letting me know that all "media has been downloaded on this account." If they aren't going to service my account, in direct contradiction to the five computer limit that is clearly noted on the website, then what is the point of charging? Upon further research, the computers must be networked to each other. What a joke.

So, I seriously doubt that I will be using iTunes to get my television fix. And it reinforces to us consumers the thinly veiled effort to sell more physical playback units. Furthermore, there is an attempt to create the Podcast as a standard, it seems. I, for one, hope to see either some HDTV format or an open source encoding (like Xvid) to be the new way to download. Unfortunately the google video codec and the .mov encoding are the leaders right now. VERY lossy.

And now, as if I didn't already have it on my mind, right here in my football game (ironic in that Paul Allen raised the team flag before the Seahawks game - the one where they make the Super Bowl for the first time ever) I see an ad that bemoans the "boring" tasks that Intel processors have completed over the years, and their subsequent liberation in Apple computers. The task that they now whittle at? Displaying the macintosh logo in one color. Gotta get me one!
It ranks right up there with other "because we can" moves. Look at the treadmill software at the gym that makes broad assumptions about my desire to run up a hill, through the woods, or to burn exactly 274.3 calories. Obviously, this is great knowledge to have. If only I could have it texted to my phone along with the menu items that I can choose from at Panera for lunch. Bonus points for using GPS to tell me that I am waiting in the wrong line for orders. What architect is responsible for this? Are you listening Google? If so, can you hear the sarcasm in my post? No?

for(client<>coord_line, client=fatso_@_Ballys, client++)
check location.Panera
compare asagio cheese.calorie
return answer

And so on.

Anyway, the football game is once again (as it was last week) being overshadowed by the commentary on the noise of the crowd, apparently causing every mistep of the visiting Panthers. If this is a product of the angle of seating or something, as I think it may be, imagine the first contest that may be decided by the architecture of the stadium.

Over in the AFC, it is obvious that the steelers are just now escaping the curse of the three rivers concrete donut. The very same phenomenon is also evident also in the success of Seattle, Cinncinatti, St. Louis, and Philadelphia. It's this little push that comes from the removal of the embarassment of playing in one of these things. Now, the DryVit curse of the throwback baseball stadium?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Zip code sorters must be paid not much either

Another note in the people who still are needed to read things dept:

It seems that Amazon is paying online lurkers two cents per image to pick the best image from severa l to represent a business in their online directory. I propose this to anyone who is concerned about the low pay of architecture. At 4000 images a day, that is $80 each day AS A CREDIT TO YOUR ACCOUNT, meaning tax free! Yippee, sign me up. So, the bottom of the barrel at this point is:

1.bum in manhattan ($24000 take home - or take wherever) image sifter ($19200 in copies of LOST season 2 that you have to sell on
3.full time architect out of school ($23000 before uncle sam)

So, generous side note notwithstanding, there are definitely applications (that will pay) for rule based design guides. As I was driving through suburbia yesterday, I realized how useful a database may be to officials or other infrastructure planners.

What if we could submit the style information of each house to the local fire department? Instantly they would know what rooms were bedrooms and where the children were. On a small screen in the truck would appear a plan, sections (maybe with all modifications, etc.) on a secure system. Privacy isn't an issue, as plans are already typically available at building official offices.

So much is available to the public - court records, public domain literary classics, tax info, arrest reports, and ip domain ownership that the problem is an overload of incompatibility. Similarly, I can write email from my computer, my phone, my GPS system in the car (if I had one), and soon to be - my digital camera, so there is going to have to be a use for all this interconnectivity. What if I could take a picture of a building, like this thing in downtown Boston that I don't recognize, and instantly have information available on it? What if I could connect digitally to the company through a data 'port'? It would make visiting a lot easier - a store could digitally broadcast it's specials, operating hours, anything they wanted - but you would be able to get the informaiton on your phone or camera, whatever. The problem is that while we have 802.11b standards, firewire standards, Joliet standards for DVDs, there are no connection standards for the world. Our interaction is primarily visual.

<- My house on - scary

So, there is a famous problem given by a computer science professor at MIT annually, to freshman majors. They are asked to write a program that is able to recognize what is shown in any picture. There have been great advances in the professional world, b ut students come to realize how difficult it is. Really interesting is this software that can give you limited directions based on an image. They key will always be integration, and I'm not talking about my refrigerator writing me an email about my rotten eggs. There ARE uses.

Friday, January 13, 2006

What about this?

A bulletin board, like vBulletin, that has drag and drop ability for images and posts. Imagine, each post is a snapshot of my desktop, all the study guides I have open, everything that I am reading, articles, etc. Is this any good?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

a struggling Target?

I was at Target yesterday, and I have this strange feeling whenever I am at this place. It is in a shopping center, not too far from an airport and a horse track. But there is very little drive-by traffic. It always seems empty, and I don't know why. It's a Target, after all, and they have market researchers. What is the problem? Why are there only 10-15 shoppers in the building at the busiest time of the typical day (5pm)? The Stop & Shop next door isn't much better, and I feel that they may have tried to extend the retail properties of the area just a little too far. A mile away lies the busiest, densest shopping strip around (route 16 from Medford to Revere) and it just doesn't spread over that way. Also, there are four other Targets within a 20 minute drive. So, densification has a limit in retail, as Krispy Kreme and Boston Market have found out.

Anyway, I was suprised to find out just what the market is for product placement in supermarkets. After reading some second hand discussion, it seems that the store expects to break even on the sales and turn a profit on the placement fees. I guess this means that you might as well start buying the items at eye level and on endcaps, because they are priced at the closest to cost. Reverse everything you knew.

Finally, a dream that came to me last night. You are in an airport running to catch flight 853 to dallas, and you find that all of the waiting terminal space in the concourse has been converted to shopping. There is nowhere to sit down without incurring some sort of fee. You search in vain, and eventually find a small sign that says, simply, "gates this way". Through the door, outside, you find yourself given the keys for a large buick and directions to the small tent that has been erected for entering the airplane, three miles down the road.

I suppose it suggests the full encompassing of shopping, to the point that there isn't room for anything else. That's the endgame.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

maybe change in life isn't so great - and one bad spelling pun

The payoffs usually come when you least expect it. While walking a job site today, there was a corner of this residence that my firm designed. It's a large house, on the ocean, and there was an ah-ha moment, for me, personally, the first in a long time. I do recall the last as being at a meeting with the president of the small university my last firm was developing a master plan. It was the moment that she and the group accepted a plan - in that case a dumpster relocation scheme - as the essence of the new direction that the school was moving in.

Ok, so it was dumpsters, but it's important in the devopment of a young archit-etc. Anyway, this house, the one on the ocean, is somewhere between modern and new england colonial. It has a cathedral space at the center and wings with a long flat ceiling. The showoff piece is shown in the photo at right, the center space, and it terminates at the water side with a sharp, knife edge soffit.

In this state, I could see the method of construction, the attention to detail, and to our details. In fact, if you look at the similarities, they are striking. This is a first for me, a visualization of the work that came from my desktop, performed by contractors who respect my work, and relationship with the client. It's still unfortunate that I recall something I heard from an internet post once -

if you ask the guy who is screwing sheetrock on your construction site how much he makes an hour (or his employers rate for him) you will go: WHAT?

then ask him how much he thinks YOU make and you will go WHAT?

now you tell me, who has the more responsibility and necessary education and knowledge for his job?

those guys work there butts off, and deserve what they make, shouldnt we?

but what can we do about it?

Continue drawing, I guess. Or become a developer/cm at the same time. Unfortunately, I have a strong distaste for subdevelopments, and couldn't sleep at night knowing I was contributing to their pervasiveness. For now, also, extra money is going to be saved towards the down payment of a house in Boston. Yikes.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

frustration with the profession

I'm the type of person who thrives on being busy - it seems as though the more I do at once, the better it turns out in the end. Some don't understand this, but I feel the need to hang out on several forums, read some of the articles on slashdot and then study for an exam in the meantime. So, now that I have finished the architectural exam, it seems like that "educational" side of me is looking, searching for something to occupy itself. I have found a few academic programs that I would like to explore further among them, the Georgia Tech CM program, and the MIT house_n, both extremely exciting. It comes down to making the decision between doing what I love and making more money. What a pain. In the meantime, you can check out this house builder from Toll Brothers. It will be replacing architects any day now, no doubt.

So, what is our (the architects') role going to be in 2020, 2050, 2100? I have no idea, but I am coming to the conclusion that we, as a whole, are in the preservation state, of both our firms, work, and titles. I see it with my supervisors, principals, and other architects. Before you sell your ideas, you need to sell your existence. That is a tough road to be in. No wonder we aren't keeping up with the standard of living that we set by the very projects we oversee. It's too bad that we don't embrace technology, and in some cases reject it. Does the computer make better design? No, but it makes design possible. I'm tired of that argument and am curious about the next step. For all the physical crap that Toll Brothers makes, their software is worth exploring for its full potential. I've seen a few promising articles on mass produced housing - not a new idea - that are showing the next wave of new, truck hauled residences. If we could find a way to apply such ideas to renovations, and also to clustering of these same units, we could do worldwide good. Ok.
Saw this on the ARE Forum. Seems to sum up the whole process pretty well.

You come to a solid brick wall, infinite in length and 75 feet tall at every point. You venture to touch it. As your gloved fingers move across the smooth, unbroken concrete, you stare in awe at the expanse to the north, then in the opposite direction. Perfectly level at the grade line, you wonder of its construction. "No control joints? What awesome and marvelous expression of form and stability..." until your mind considers the late 20th century technique of "slip forming." You notice something to the south, was it there before? Maybe. 200 feet away, just above head height, there is a break, perfectly rectangular. Walking over to it, you gaze up and through to the sky beyond. Their sky, the Others'.

You know about The Other Side. Your ancestors, in your youth, spoke of its mystery, the unwavering stability, occasionally a clay tile containing strange cryptic messages would come hurtling over the walls, silently and unpredictably. The tiles are mostly imprinted with series of unrelated questions. They are in your language, but none make sense. Some seem to point to an answer, some have two, three, or even four correct answers scrawled underneath. Others are short and seem to trail off. Still others are nothing more than blank tiles or nonsensical pictures. You knew a boy who ventured too close without being aware many years ago and was crushed under a slab. It was simply labelled "LF." This is why civilization has stayed away, but here you are today, making the trek to The Wall. All candidates try it, but no one has conquered it. You can pretend that you are uninterested, but the Others know the order of things, and that candidates will continue to return day after day, year after year. Your elders have told you that you can defeat them, to "toss those tiles back," but that strategy only works to the point that there are fewer impediments on the ground at the foot of the wall. Nothing changes. They still come back, they ALWAYS come back, and your additions to the tiles or exclusions seem go unnoticed. Over the years some have observed, the content changes, but the ambiguity doesn't. They keep coming, patrolling the wall, and heave the stones back. Some still ask why, but most acquiesce and continue on instinctively. You will be one soon, you are told.

You look at the hole again, it is up there, and square, about 11 inches wide and 8 tall. Maybe it is 8 1/2, but the wall, at least at this point is thin enough to allow oblique views upward. "thank goodness for forced perspective," you mutter sarcastically. You hop up, using the wall as a fricion surface, but with no ledge or handhold, you can only see if you keep jumping. Your truncated views are fair, however. You can see the ground on The Other Side. You see tiles, thousands of them. You jump again, and you see something that causes alarm, but you still jump. Up and down. Up and down. Adjacent to these lie actual, live residents of The Other Side, indulging in libation and what looks like caviar. Pilote lie strewn about. They are smaller than you imagine. As you continue to jump, one moves toward you, and speaks. It is your native tongue. Slowly and mechanically, it says "Thank you for using our guide, we just installed it, and we hope you may find it useful." Startled, you jump to the side, so that you cannot see the representative. You query, "why is this portal here?" Silence. "What shall we do with this?" No answer.

You jump again, this time farther away from the wall, in case of danger. To your great surprise, the portal has been replaced by concrete. Perfectly smooth, and not indicative of any prior disturbance. You look in both directions, and feel a lingering emptiness, which you then realize is not simply emotional, and as you look down, you know what you are going to see, in all the jumping, your fine gloves have been removed without your realizing. They are gone, and taken by Them as a barter for the information. Wincing, you remember their history. Passed down from your father, also a candidate, to help you handle the slabs without injury. Now part of the machine in full production and revelry of the slabs. Your devistation as you stare at your bare hands is overwhelming.

As you walk away, back to town to consider this bitterly ironic development, you are discouraged but curious to return, you realize that the price was in exchange for that lonely, solemn glimpse into the world of the Other Side. You alone have the expensive view, but, will it be of any help?

Introduction to blogging

Sorry. Can I do it? Most likely. Be good to me text editor and I will return the favor. This is your only warning....