Thursday, July 26, 2007

Conscientiousness, Waste, Necessity

There are things I think about frequently in many different ways... what it boils down to is that it's hard to have the big picture and even more difficult to do the best thing.

I don't like waste. I'm one of those people who uses both sides of a sheet of paper before recycling it. With a shredder, I could make animal bedding, but I don't think the paper is absorbent enough to work. I would if I could.

All sorts of food waste goes in the garbage, where it sits in a landfill. I would compost if I could. I'm considering flushing all organic waste, because I'm pretty sure that stuff doesn't get buried in the ground and abandoned.

Chicago does an incredibly poor job of recycling.

Sometimes recycling takes more energy and creates more pollution than creating new stuff. On the other hand, nonrenewable resources stay in circulation longer.

Something I hate about the idea of throwing a big party is the amount of waste that's associated with it for a one-time event. Not my sort of investment.

Millions of Americans have rooms that are rarely, if ever, used. This culture of affluence includes an architecture of affluence, which amounts to building twice the number of square feet that are actually used. In some ways, condos are attractive; most are small and force you to live small.

In suburbia, you can't get anywhere without driving. Gak, pollution.

The poor air quality in Chicago is especially noticeable if you spend any time breathing the air outside of Chicago.

We all know that older cars tend to have poor gas mileage. But newer cars produce pollution by being manufactured. How far does one have to drive, to produce the same amount of pollution by running a less-efficient engine as it takes to produce a whole new automobile?

Used clothes are great. They cost less than new clothes, it's possible to get some that are as good as new, and nothing else was manufactured in the process.

How much electricity might be saved by turning off all our office lights for a couple of hours a day, and relying on daylighting?

I have some misgivings about investing in a copper company. It's the obvious choice, because I'm an architect and am aware of what's going on in my industry. People will always need copper. It'll tend to be a winner. But copper mines mostly are in Mexico and South America. Mining can be really bad for the environment. Working conditions can be really poor. But using copper, itself, supports the business. What does investing say?

There are hybrid vehicles, supposedly green, out there, that suck up more gas than conventional vehicles. I'd like a different car with more cargo space (for moving bikes and artwork, primarily), but it has to be as good as my 25/35mph Saturn. Toyota redesigned the Scion xB and now the gas mileage isn't as good.

People have grass lawns, but in most climates you have to water grass to keep it alive because it's not indigenous. Isn't there a better solution?

Most houses' roofs drain rainwater directly into storm sewers. In Chicago, the storm and sanitary sewers aren't separate, so storm water is treated along with everything else. Most new roofs have to be hooked up - they can't just drain onto the site, for fear of flooding the neighbors' yard. I'd rather develop some way of retaining water onsite. (Actually, I have a sketch of my idea.)

That is all, for now.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

"Eating a Tangerine is Real Enlightenment"

Seeing this avocado reminded me of the quote from Hardcore Zen... the perfect avocado. It was a particularly tasty avocado, too.


Draft. verb. To ride closely behind a competitor, saving energy by using that racer as a wind break. Riding in front is very strenuous but affords a great energy-saving advantage to the rider behind.

Drop, dropped. verb. To leave behind, to be left behind.

Hammerfest. noun. A brutally fast ride or race.

Paceline. noun. A string of riders that moves at high speed with each individual taking turns setting the pace and riding in the draft of the others.

Pull. noun, verb. A turn pulling. To take a turn at the front of the group, maintaining the same speed of the group.

Today's training/touring ride was supposed to be an easy 50 miles at 14-18mph. But alas, it was not to be. A few miles in, the route took a 5.5 mile run up a low-traffic, well-paved street. At some light or other, I pulled out early (darn left turn arrows!) and decided to keep going... ended up pulling a paceline of 8 guys at 24mph.

(It's so, so quiet at the front. Nothing but wind and the hum of the front tire... didn't know I was pulling at the time.)

Unfortunately, that set off the hammerfest. At the turnaround point, several of the group (we'd dropped the other 10 long ago) were discussing "not hammering" on the way back.

So the return was 19-21mph into the wind, single paceline, "not hammering". (Ha.)

Probably doesn't mean much if you don't ride... or it sounds like really scary and dangerous Tour de France stuff. (It's not scary when you know the guys in front of you know what they're doing.) I'm pretty darn proud of myself.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Design Realized and the Rain that Won't

I'd like to announce that Design - Realized is up and at 'em.

There's a bit of content - I selected the easily-updated blog format, set it up all by myself, and, thanks to a new and extra-portable digital camera, am updating with studio shots and studio shots, on a regular basis. (That is, the studio where I work and my little "photography studio" at home, where I take pretty pictures with good lighting.) And there will be updates aplenty, as I make new work and catch up with the backlog of past shots.

Meanwhile, rain has been forecast all week, so the last time I was on my bike was the 63 mile (yes, really) trip on Saturday. Unfortunately, the thunderstorms haven't developed and sprinklings have been few.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Practical Considerations, And

Trev asked in his blog, What helps YOU uncoil, expand, release and open? I said, Cycling, cooking, making clay stuff. Reading before bed.

Connected, today's peace quote:
There is an Indian proverb or axiom that says that everyone is a house with four rooms: a physical, a mental, an emotional, and a spiritual. Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time but, unless we go into every room every day, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person.
- Rumer Godden in A House with Four Rooms

Biorhythms track three of these four, claiming that they are cyclical in nature. Okay my quiz-loving friends, check your biorhythm! This one claims there are four more; spiritual, aesthetic, awareness, and intuition - just found it today. That adds the fourth, plus three sixth senses that I use regularly. I'm not sure that my experience correlates; at least, particularly good or bad days tend not to - those are the only times I think to check.

If I were to assign a color to each of these four, what would it be? A cardinal direction? An animal?

Of late, I've noticed that I'm most content if I can get in a bike ride, a bit of time at the studio, some productivity at work, and a little reading. Those specific things don't fall neatly into the four categories above; other specific activities may be substituted. It's interesting that three of them were also responses to Trev's question. Cooking's left out - I love it, but the time makes it less accessible, given my current priorities. Ditto kayaking. And being productive, knocking something off the "things I should do" list, anything works.

Maybe this works - whatever part work fills, find some relaxing enjoyable activities that touch on the rest, and do them regularly too. One part work, four parts relaxation, mix well, drink regularly.

The looming to-do list (minor things - chores, critters, things that occur on a weekly basis, plus major things, like getting licensed) does, in some way, give me a sense of purpose. There's often some big project, "the next big thing" keeping me entertained, or at least mildly preoccupied. There's still the meta-purpose of making and enjoying beautiful things, but small steps bridge from tomorrow's attire to a lifetime of love. It seems like cheating, but simultaneously I realize that life is lived but a moment at a time.

As an aside: a useful thing about Pronoia are the invitations to consider dreams, fantasies, and half-baked plans. Things are recorded that fall someplace between tomorrow and forever - am and it gives them a chance at being realized.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ethics and conventions, spiral paths, patterns

I am postconventional. What are you?

Okay, so it reads like the headline of an online quiz, but I enjoyed discovering this this morning, and want to share:

We know that human ethical development typically (and broadly speaking) emerges through three stages, which can be defined as preconventional, conventional, and postconventional stages of moral development.
At the first or preconventional stage, morals are understood and experienced solely in terms of what the ego demands.
But with relatively normal/healthy social development, we move into the stage of conventional morality: where our moral sensibilities are shaped by one or more group identities.
Finally, as postconventional ethical consciousness emerges, we begin to think not in terms of conformity to any given group, but begin to define ethical values by universal principles...

It is, as the author says, pretty basic, but there's an art to stating the obvious. I do recommend reading the entire well-written post at Anamchara, and I look forward to reading this newly-discovered blog some more.

The thought passed yesterday - it seems that life is a spiral path, that I keep travelling the same circles, but making upward progress each time around. Back at Catholicism for awhile, remembering its value, finding it both richer and more limited, until I journey, until the next season brings me by again.

Meanwhile, I continue with Fire in the Mind and, slowly, Pronoia. In FitM, I'm reading about Native American cultures, the similarities among creation stories, that as tribes interacted and shared ideas, that they gained gods, rather than having one set of gods war with another. This sort of assimilation is markedly different than Christian methods. The summary in FitM makes me want to get deeper into those belief systems and learn more about cultures to which my exposure has been quite limited.

Four cardinal directions, described by colors, each ruled by an animal. How many cardinal directions might be found in my own spinning? (That sounds a bit Annie Dillard; I like it.)

Yes, I (sometimes) obsessively and (sometimes) unneccessarily search for patterns, for ways to describe them, ways to communicate them with others. Thus we can toy communally with ideas, explore concepts. I'd suppose that everyone has a need to know that they're not entirely alone in their experience, but it may be that that's just me.

Friday, July 06, 2007

It is what it is, not what you think it is.

Andrew commented to yesterday's post:

This existence thing is interesting, is it not, when you start paying attention and try to stop using the shorthand of labels?

The first thought that comes to mind: it is what it is, not what you think it is.

To expand my response:

In freehand drawing class, we learned to draw what we saw, not what we thought we saw. With familiar objects, it's easy to see things that aren't really there, or to see them as they don't really appear.

The exercises that helped me most were drawing shoes and chairs. Afternoons and pages went into it. It's not a skill I use frequently, but the knowledge always seems fresh. (That's odd.)

There are people who claim they can't draw. I wonder if the real difficulty is that they can't see?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Habitual forgetfulness

An entry on John's blog spurs this one. I've considered writing about (and maybe have mentioned?) a particular trait of mine: I'm forgetful.

Some afternoons I couldn't remember what I ate for breakfast, but it's not that kind of forgetfulness. Those things happen. I don't always set my keys down in the same place, nor my sunglasses or watch. I'm better off when things have a Place and I actually put them There; otherwise I'm dependent upon spotting the wayward object.

No, I just forget what it was like. There was a year when I was quite lonely; from my writing, I'm pretty sure it sucked. Don't remember what it was like, and forgot speedily. There's somebody I'm not friends with anymore; I found a note to a friend that indicates some grievious harm was done, but I can't remember what that was. Just as well. This all is similar to what Andrew talked about awhile ago; I seem to do it constantly.

Who knows what else I've discovered and forgotten! Things are particularly likely to be forgotten if they're written down. For a long time, I've said that I don't need to remember things, but know how to find the information. Maybe that attitude has precipitated forgetfulness. (If the alternative is constant worry that information will be lost, I'll stay on this side of the fence, thank you!) There is so much information in architecture that we're really better off getting it into the drawings - then anybody can find the answer.

But at the same time, I've made some marvelous discoveries on the nature of Things, recorded them (here, generally) and forgotten the incident entirely. Sometimes whatever-it-is gets pretty well internalized, and I forget about life without this now-obvious fact. Other times, the fact and recording are both forgotten.

Things between the meta and minute orders are forgotten as well. There'll be a discussion on something Important, and I may not only forget the contents of the discussion, but sometimes that it happened.

This all amuses me because science thinks the universe might be cyclical, and Tolle says we're all little microcosms of the universe.

Here I am, a happy little universe, forgetful as can be!

(There's probably a briefer and more complete analysis than this - not to mention more elegant! - but then I'd be sitting on the post for weeks and lose the impulse that entertained me enough to write.)

As the theme lately has been data interpretation, I found this sentence to be telling, and mention it also:

Loop Quantum Gravity . . . is now a leading approach to the goal of unifying general relativity with quantum physics.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


I used to wonder what I'd do if my apartment burned down, or something. Didn't used to care - a forced new start. It was more attractive to think of the junk I'd be rid of than the things I'd lose. (Architecture students can accumulate supplies and projects, and to top if off, I'm a ceramicist.) Andrew's comments on starting over brought that scenario to mind.

But it seems that my attitude's changed. There are the critters. And there are some things here that I enjoy having around. Not that stuff really matters. I'd manage, it'd just be sad. Mostly, it's interesting to note that my thoughts have changed. "I wonder what that means?" Of course I'm inclined to wonder, and listing theories is tempting. But they're theories. And then there's attachment.

It seems to me that attachment is really a double-edged sword. Attachment, expectation, suffering. Good mantra; incomplete. I've developed a soft spot for the building I'm charged with; the restoration/renovation project will be better because I care. So likewise with caring. Indifference isn't always the better part of wisdom; neither is caring or attachment. But they both have their place. Letting things go can keep one sane; caring can improve things, bring joy to life. Seems to be worth mentioning.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Maybe it's not like that.

Note: I actually wrote this on the 28th, but today's post by Andrew provided a nudge of inspiration; here ya go.

Lately, I've viewed everything as constructions and playthings.

Maybe it's not really like that.

But I'm willing to admit that maybe that's just the explanation that best allows me to hold loosely, touch lightly. Maybe it's just the explanation that best allows me to stay sane. And maybe that explanation doesn't work for other people.

Some people, not all probably, but some, do that. (Maybe all. I don't know.) People just do what they have to, in order to find some grounding, in order to be able to function. It's all just constructions, but we are (or at least I am) so accustomed to working with constructions, that when they're all revealed to be at best a house of cards, there's nothing - lost, drifting. I don't want to reconstruct anything, knowing it would be a lie, but the need for sanity prevails.

I've gotten accustomed to the nothing, and sometimes the lack of implied purpose still bothers me at times. And I, by nature, am conceptual and process oriented. I somehow find the common thread and can summarize anything. So I do.

My analogies are just another interpretation of the data. I know that. I'm okay with it.