privacy – a modern illusion – #letsblogoff

Privacy (pronounced with the short “i” and always in a British accent) is a modern illusion. Everything in our modern lives prevents a true idea of privacy. Your cell phone has a gps tracking device in it that broadcasts your location 24/7, your computer has a webcam that can be hacked and again broadcast your location and whatever you happen to be doing at that moment (take your finger out of your nose…it’s just gross). Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Tumblr, all social networks are nothing more than a way for us to broadcast our most private moments to the world for immediate consumption and comment.

The only real privacy anyone has anymore is in their home, under a blanket with all the shades drawn. And even then, your home, your privacy, can be invaded and defiled if even the slightest suspicion is raised about your character and social allegiances in defense of “national security”.

Many will say that the 4th Amendment protects us from this type of “illegal search and seizure”, but these people would be wrong because they’ve obviously never heard of the Patriot Act which essentially suspends the 4th Amendment if you are suspected of being linked to a terrorist organization. In which case, any suspicion no matter how ridiculous is grounds for a search warrant, wire taps and even sometimes arrest.

The bottom line is, technology and politics have destroyed any notion of privacy in modern life. And, in America, it has happened at the will of the people and under the guise of “defending our national interest”. Unfortunately true freedom, true liberty, true privacy comes with a cost. And that cost has been more than many Americans have wanted to bear.

open source cities

I opened up my subscribers list to find a new follower of my blog. This always excites me a little because it means that someone appreciates what I’ve had to say enough to add it to their list of information. And each time I get a new follower or someone who likes one of my posts I have a compulsion to check out their blogs, if they have one.

My latest follower, luckily, has a blog and right up front is this video about open source cities. The idea behind an open source city is essentially a game type scenario in which citizens propose projects to other players like officials or artists or business owners or developers and become active participants in the development of their cities. This video proposes “Open Source Moscow 2012” as the “game environment”.

Do we think this is something that could actually work? On a small scale? On a large scale? Are there inherent problems that jump out at you when you see this type of idea?

Immediately, the problem I see is getting people, citizens, to buy into this sort of thing. As citizens, we tend to feel mostly powerless already when it comes to affecting development decisions in our cities. We tend to either discover changes in our city via the news, after the fact, or through experience once something is already in place. So there is the danger that only those “in power” would even engage in this sort of exercise, which makes us no better off and no closer to a city influenced by those who live, work and play within that city.

What else comes to your mind? Pro, Con, whatever. Let it fly.

old (-ish) dogs, new tricks

My first internship was, by all accounts, a dream job. Not only was it with the oldest firm in Florida (their corporate license # is A000001), but they were one of the first firms to make the switch to Autocad in the 80s and were even published in an early edition of Arch Record for a 3D model done of the Jacksonville Airport. They continued, and continue, to stay on the cutting edge of technology. While I was with them we always had the latest version of Autocad and once I moved up a little, I was allowed to get in on Beta testing for Autodesk, which means we got the latest versions before they were commercially available.

BOOOYAH! Yeah Baby.

It was, to say the least, an amazing learning experience to work with other architects and designers that had such a wealth of knowledge about the technology available to us and it’s practical use in the profession. Unfortunately this has not been my experience since leaving that firm.

In the first few years after leaving this firm it was easy to stay on top of new developments because I was actively in IDP and a bit of a pain in the ass when it came to getting experience. So, I was always looking for new ways to make my life easier in the world of cad production.

In my current position….let’s just say I feel as though my ears are continually leaking valuable information out of my brain that I will perhaps never get back as I drum through the day on one redline task after another on a 4 year old platform of Autocad Architecture. Suffice it to say I’m behind the curve at this point when I used to be ahead of it.

So there’s the question – is it ever too late for a architect/designer to learn new tricks?

I ask because, knowing that I am woefully behind the AEC technology curve, I’m endeavoring to teach myself BIM and IPD, starting with Archicad. Being a teacher at a local state college has it’s perks. I have a fully licensed copy of the educational version and access to a ton of tutorials and videos and other teaching aids. It’s awesome, but slow going. Other than SketchUp I haven’t had to teach myself anything new in more years than I care to admit.

Does anyone else have any experience with this kind of professional shift – moving from one way of doing things to a completely new way and changing technologies all at the same time? Have you had successes, failures, or was it a seamless process? What do we think are some keys to success when dealing with new technology, new techniques and new tools? Is it simply a matter of attitude or is there some other trait that keeps us moving forward, striving to stay at least near the top of the curve? I hope everyone will share their own thoughts, experiences and opinions.

keep your dogma off my lawn

My buddy Lee, with Lee Calisti Architecture + Design, has a recent post where he poses the question “where are we, where am I”, speaking about the current state of architecture and geo-political economics, etc. And he makes the point that architecture today is in flux, changing, at breakneck speeds. Technology is only increasing each and every day making it more and more difficult to keep up with the latest tools, let alone keep up with the latest design trends in a world wide community.

What I like most about this post was the video at the end. An interview by Archdaily with Peter Eisenman in which they ask “what do you think about American architecture today?” A bold question to ask one of our generations starchitects.

Peter responds by first talking about what he calls a “pivotal time” in architecture (this time being the late 60s and early 70s) where there was an architectural identity in which “architecture changed from being practical and pragmatic to being theoretical and cultural”, and goes on to say that architecture today is basically without an “ism” (i.e. Post-Modernism, Deconstructivism, Neoclassicism). And today’s architects, being without this identity, a founding ism, or dogma are sort of floundering around looking for that sense of architectural self.

I tend to agree with Peter that architecture today lacks a particular identity. But I also think the lack of a singular identity has allowed architects to get back to a root cause of architecture that is project specific. For so many years our architecture had a style, a dogma, a set of aesthetic principles that were followed based on nothing more than visual appeal or some other guiding principle rather than on some specific expression of the site, surroundings or even the function. Architecture, today, I think, has reclaimed that sense of place even in a world of expanding modular capabilities where buildings are no longer constructed on site, but rather shipped and lifted into place.

What I’ve seen is the design process shift to a more sensitive and site specific approach to design that maybe was lacking in years past. What about you? Do you think Peter is right when he says young architects today should “get ready for a time when there is a possibility of making architecture again?” Or are we already there?

Minimalist – 1: Pack Rat – 0

So previously I wrote about one of my favorite blogs, The Minimalists, and my upcoming adventure in Minimalism. Well, today I’m happy to report that I’m off to a wonderful start. In my attic there were boxes of “stuff” that I’ve been hanging on to for….well, some of it more than 20 years. I don’t use this “stuff”, it doesn’t come out of the box, it just sits up there in my attic and somehow gets carted from place to place to place as I move through life.

Well, today was the beginning of a new day, a new dawn in life. Over at The Minimalists, they talk about “taking stock” of your “stuff” and purging that which is either a] not useful or b] simply not necessary. This is not always easy to do. We, Americans especially I think, have a very strong connection to nostalgia, keepsakes, kitsch, and all the crap that reminds you of a happy time. These things are INSANELY difficult to get rid of. I know because I just did this over the weekend.

the first load out of the attic

But I took my time. I went through my boxes of “stuff”, got one last long look at what amounts to the last 20-odd years of “me” and made two piles. In one pile I put the things that I simply do not need to hang on to. This was a very large pile. In the second pile I put the things that REALLY are special, i.e. a photo of my old cat Goober, may he rest in peace, and a couple old photos of my eldest daughter. This stack, once done sifting through about 200 pounds worth of “stuff”, ended up being about 1/4″ high and amounted to a few photos and some old negatives that I can archive and store for posterity sake. Everything else will be headed for either a] the dumpster or b] the recycling bin. Either way there are going to be some very unhappy people come pick-up day. :-\

The final step to my first weekend fore into Minimalism was to go through my closet and my dresser. This was actually not terribly difficult a task to do as it’s a task I’ve been putting off for quite some time anyway. I’m already one of those guys that “wears” my clothes. And by that I mean I wear them until they are no longer fit for public consumption. So, I went through my work clothes (the only thing I really keep in my closet other than jeans) and threw out what was stained, faded or otherwise just not presentable any longer. Then I did the same for my work pants. Lastly I went through my jeans. I kept one pair of cargo pants that I use for painting and other miscellaneous “work” and three other pair of jeans that are my favorites.

This done, I moved to my dresser which I discovered was full almost entirely of t-shirts. I had thought that I probably had one too many t-shirts….but I had no idea that the number was more like 20 too many. 😐 So, another stack of those later and I actually have a free drawer.

All in all it was a successful weekend of purging and evaluating what it truly important and useful. I’m not nearly done, but as you can see by the photo below, I’m well on my way. The next steps will be to go through my book collection, my CD/DVD collections and then it will finally be time to go through all of the knick-knacks that pile up in a home with two kids. I’m really excited about all of this. It feels good to get rid of “stuff” and finally come to know what it truly useful and worth keeping in life. I hope you’ll stay tuned as I continue this journey and maybe even do a little purging of your own.

the trash pile - yes, the boxes are full

for freedom and liberty

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the attack on the world trade center and the pentagon. Today we honor the men and women who lost their lives in those gruesome attacks, but we also honor all the men and women who risked their lives to help on that day and the days and weeks that followed. We also honor all the men and women who serve this country in law enforcement, in emergency service, in military and in the support of the same. It is for freedom and liberty that we strive; it is for freedom and liberty that we fight; and it is for freedom and liberty that we all sacrifice, give thanks and give praise.

God bless the souls we lost, God bless the souls that serve, God bless those who believe in freedom and liberty and most of all:

God bless the United States of America


my struggle with minimalism

One of my favorite blogs to read is The Minimalists. Josh and Ryan are truly visionaries and their posts are simple, straightforward…dare I say “minimal”? One of their most recent posts really struck a cord with me. A post titled “My Minimalist Work Space”. Truth be told, this  post could have had no words, just the single photo of the Minimalist Work Space and I would have been enraptured, and it has inspired me to jump into this idea of Minimalism. But, as much as I admire their passion and as much VALUE that I see in this way of living….I just can’t seem to get this monkey off my back.

Would you like to know what my monkey’s name is? I thought you might. His name is “STUFF”. He is not cute, or cuddly, or house broken. He leaves a trail wherever he goes and never, ever cleans up after himself. I mean seriously, “stuff” is everywhere! And it’s driving me and my family nuts. I think George Carlin said it best when he commented “you ever notice how your stuff is stuff but other people’s stuff is shit?” Yeah, well…my “stuff” is shit too. It’s just taken me a really long time to realize it. I’ve got “stuff” that hasn’t even seen the light of day in more years than I care to admit to. I’ve got “stuff” I don’t even know I got, but one day I’ll find it and I guarantee that I will find a way to justify keeping it.

But no more. It’s time to roll up the sleeves and really do something about “stuff”. “Stuff” has to go. He ain’t gotta go home, but he can’t stay here. Know what I’m sayin’? I know you do, you’re so understanding, such a good listener. Would you like to take some “stuff”? I promise, it’s “stuff” not shit.

Right about now you’re wondering if I forgot to take my meds. Could  be possible. But no. The truth is I’m embarking on a journey. A journey of Minimalism (yes, it DOES have to be written with a capital M). Over the next few weeks I will raid my attic and get rid of “stuff”. And I will try to take pictures of the “stuff” that is getting kicked to the curb, quite literally. I think we’ll all be amazed at just how large a shit pile of “stuff” I will end up with.

But I’m excited! I’ve come to hate “stuff”. I don’t want it, I don’t need it, it’s never been terribly useful and so, it’s gotta go.