30 September 2008


Hey! They named something after me, I feel so special!

MooTools. A JavaScript framework, presented by WebMonkey.

Skin or Veneer

One of the threads Rem Koolhaas weaves into Delirious New York is how the classic sky-scraping office building was an agent in the divorce between surface and interior, between the building's skin and its program. Stepping into a building ceased to be entering the building, and instead became passing through a gate into a program not revealed until you were standing in its midst. This, of course, was a given in the multi-use nature of such large structures.

What happened then, was that architecture was split into two components, program and skin. The interior of the building was designed to address a certain need. The exterior was designed to address another. These two needs did not necessarility have anything to do with each other.

This split has led to some very interesting pieces of architecture, by allowing much more room to play with the architectural skin. For instance, we currently have a spate of water-themed structures whose programs relate to wter in some way from people like Zheng Fang (the Beijing Water Cube) and Zaha Hadid (Ebro River Bridge Pavillion, 2012 Olympic Aquatic Center). These push the envelope of what architecture can be in very interesting ways. But what makes then interesting is that the divorce of program and skin has allowed them to find new ways to reestablish that connection, ways that might not have been thought of had that divorce not taken place.

But this split has also led to problems.

There is a great deal of architecture where the skin does not talk to the program of the interior. And as much architecture where the skin does not talk to the program of the surrounding urban landscape.

Thus a building may look beautiful (or at least masterful) on its own, but fail both its occupants and its context.

Nor does this divorce end at the skin. The past decade saw a spate of buildings with glorious atria, simply because the people handing out the awards had a thing about atriums. As a result, some buildings lost a third or more of their space to the skin of the building thrusting its was into the interior. For all the raves about the aesthetic quality, getting a third less building than you bargained for is not a win.

I won't name names, but I know of a college that built a new library so they could close down and renovate their old library. Unfortunately, and against the wishes of the library staff, the administration opted to build what was in effect an atrium with some office space around it. The librarians now have nicer offices, but the old library is still open and still in need of renovation because there is no place to move the books. Interestingly, in reading a retrospective of new architecture on the campus recently, the new library was not mentioned.

A huge atrium is just an attempt to expand the skin of a building into the building, usually at the cost of the program. Not all buildings are reception halls. One of the few places I have seen huge atria put to good use is in hotels where a complex and ornate entrace space houses reception areas, restaurants, bars, and services, all in a dynamic multilayered structure that can even find the time to feel initimate in places not in need of a sweeping vista.

So enough ramble. Points.

When designing a skin for a building, we don't want a veneer, we want a skin. It needs to breathe, interacting with its environment, and letting bits of it in as well as bits of what is inside out. It needs to appropriate house what is contained with in. Architectural design starts with the program. It is okay for the program to evolve in coordination with a skin that fits it, but it should not be forced to conform to a skin that does not. The skin can be echoed inside the building, but it should not dominate it.

Design for the next context up can perhaps be misinterpreted here. It is too easy to see the skin as the building and thus the context for the program, but it goes the other way. The skin, as is the building itself, is defined by the program. The program is designed by the social and economic forces that drive it. But the program, and the building, are also defined by the program of the physical structure (urban or not) around it.

Perhaps prt of the problem is that it is not a question of "context", but of "contexts". What are the next contexts up in the ladder? Are the commensurable.

For instance, the building can have multiple programs that may have conflicting needs that have to be resolved. A paper recycling plant using green architectural methods and sustainable resources. To the extent possible, the perfect pairing, but the recycling plant is still going to need heavy machinery and produce large (albeit both treatable and recyclable) waste flows.

The Hearst Tower in Manhattan takes such conflicts literally. While building a new building to meet their own needs, they also did not present another faceless glass tower to the street, instead letting it grow out of the original stone and steel building on the site. The atrium in the structure, though perhaps excessive, creates an intentional divide between the two programs, and, in effect, puts the tower on top of the old building instead of inside it. This gives the space of the old building a life it would not have if it were just a facade standing as the base of a new tower.

The idea of there being a single program, or a single solution, takes us back to the magick bullet. Things are much more complicated than that. But before this posting becomes a book, let's close with the following oversimplified diagram. I'm sure I'll find other reasons to harp on this topic later.

[Update: Wow, this essay is so totally a mishmash of thinly thought out threads poorly strung together. Oh well, what I get for using this as a journal of ideas ... I should go back to scrawling on paper first). It did, however, give me some good ideas that may show up in more focused commentary later.]

Word of the Day

The word of the day is ... antimetabole.

29 September 2008

Head of Skate

What if Disney made a Palin movie ...

Head of Skate

Update: Had it embedded only to realize it is in teeny widescreen and doesn't fit on the page.

Cardboard Bedding

Awesome photorealism on this bedding set, and for a good cause.

Cardboard bedding, available from snurkbeddengoed.nl. Link via boingboing.

You know you want one ...

I do.

All it needs is a place to mount a storage box in the back and it will be exactly what most of us need for getting around. Okay, so a normal bike can't be put in a closet and doesn't need it's own garage, but you'd no longer have to bike five miles out of your way just to cross the river.

From GBO Design.

28 September 2008

Builds 18: Moving Doors

Was going nuts trying to figure out the best way to code rotation independent doors in Second Life. Then I discovered the Lindens helpfully created a function that takes the rotation and calculated vectors for you, so that no matter which way the door is facing you can move it, for instance, one meter to the left.

Anyway, here is my solution if anyone needs a robust door script. It assumes that the initial position for the door is along the Y-axis, set to slide north.

The script will either just slide the door or slide the door halfway and then do a little flip to fold the door against the wall. The second one makes for an elegant little effect.

// Creative Commons Attribute Share-Alike License
// Mootly Obviate 2008
// ==========
// This script controls doors that slide or slide or slide
// and rotate.  It is rotation independent and can be used
// when linked in single prim doors. Remember that prims
// pivot on their center.
// The point of this script is to make doors that slide
// partly out of the way and then rotate to fold away.

// defaults - no reason to touch
integer  on       = 1;        // set on flag to 1 (on)
integer  ont      = 0;        // set timer flag to 0 (off)
rotation delta    = <0,0,0,0>;
rotation rot      = <0,0,0,0>;
integer  thisstep = 0;

// Set this to determine delay before door autocloses.
float    time     = 30;       // close after x seconds

// Not really position, so much as length of movement.
// These should be set to how many meters you want the
// doors to move. Normally they should have the same value.
float    posi     = 1;        // position
float    dpos     = 1;        // default position

// Set whether the rotation and movement (x-axis) is
// positive or negative
integer  rotdir   = 1;        // set positive/negative rotation
integer  movdir   = 1;        // set positive/negative movement

// Set rotation action: number of steps and degrees per
// step. Remember a quarter turn is 90 degrees.
integer  steps    = 2;        // set steps in rotation
float    degper   = 45;       // set degrees per step

// Set flag (0/1) on whether to rotate after sliding.
integer  rot_tf   = 1;        // set true false on rotation


  // state entry stuff
    llOwnerSay("Door Ready");

  // auto close timer
    if (ont == 1) {
      if (rot_tf == 1)
        rot = llGetLocalRot();
        delta = llEuler2Rot(<0,0,-(rotdir*degper*DEG_TO_RAD)>);
        thisstep = 0;
        for (; thisstep < steps; thisstep++)
          rot = rot * delta;
      rot = llGetLocalRot();
      llSetPos(llGetLocalPos() - dpos*movdir*llRot2Left(rot));
      ont = 0;
      posi = dpos;

  // touch scripts: open, then close
  touch(integer touches)
    if (on == 1)
      if (posi == dpos) {
        rot = llGetLocalRot();
        llSetPos(llGetLocalPos() + dpos*movdir*llRot2Left(rot));
        posi = 0-dpos;
        ont = 1;
        if (rot_tf == 1)
          delta = llEuler2Rot(<0,0,(rotdir*degper*DEG_TO_RAD)>);
          thisstep = 0;
          for (; thisstep < steps; thisstep++)
            rot = rot * delta;
        if (rot_tf == 1)
          rot = llGetLocalRot();
          delta = llEuler2Rot(<0,0,-(rotdir*degper*DEG_TO_RAD)>);
          thisstep = 0;
          for (; thisstep < steps; thisstep++)
            rot = rot * delta;
        rot = llGetLocalRot();
        llSetPos(llGetLocalPos() - dpos*movdir*llRot2Left(rot));
        posi = dpos;
        ont = 0;

    if (on == 0)
      on = 1;

// fin

Happy Birthday!

Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday dear modern suburbia!
Happy birthday to you!

Some articles on Levittown at 50:

Mind you, it is just a Levittown and not the Levittown, but the articles are not about nostalgia, so I forgive them and the hype. On the other hand, unlike the original, this one was made up up houses much more in line with what we think of as classic American suburbia.

I live just a few blocks from a small enclave of original-style Levittown houses, many still in their original tiny boxy form. Maybe I should go snap some picture in celebration.

Copy of the Sent 3

I admit, I am sort of posting these in reverse order, as I sort through old e-mail. I think this is the one that started it all. At least I can't find anything earlier, though I know there was. I think the original was just a sentence or two complaining about poorly timed discoveries of policy changes whose nature didn't help anything really.

The problem here is a conflation between intellectual property rights and usage rights. (Somebody find the legal advisor for the faculty union and kick them in the kneecaps for that one ... I mean, just what the school needs: structured balkanization spelled out in the faculty contract.)

By creating content for the school on the school's payroll for the teaching of these courses, the faculty are giving a certain measure of license to the school, which in order to protect copyright should of course be limited to usage rights. But to forbid even usage rights without explicit permission in each specific instance makes it much more difficult to maintain consistency between courses and thus will most probably wreak havoc with accreditation next time it comes around.

Not to mention the issue of something like [course number], where by not being able to copy shells over you are in effect saying I don't have the right to my own content because someone else has been teaching it in the interim.

The to avoid this I would ask the faculty at the next faculty meeting if they would be willing to sign voluntary waivers allowing all faculty to share information with each other in the department openly to ensure course consistency between sections. Furthermore, I would also ensure that there is always an active copy of a version as developed by the faculty of record for that course with documentation on file that the shell can be copied as needed so that new faculty and adjuncts can acquire a working shell when picking up new courses.

27 September 2008

Dirt is Good

Not entirely sure why, but this commercial made me all misty eyed. Probably too much time at the computer means I can sympathize.

Mottainai (勿体無い)

The Japanese seem to love words about different types of sorrow. There are not many languages where the words for sorrow can be both positive and negative in connotation. Anyway ...

From treehugger: Mottainai! "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" Gets Ethical in Japan and Beyond


The word of the day is Biblionomatopoeia.

Brought to you by the good folks at Design Observer.

26 September 2008


I have already spoken about movement in this blog. It is really one of my favorite topics. And I really do think it is underepresented in the discussion of architecture and urban form.

What? No wait! That can't be. The discussion of movement is one of the most critical parts of urban design. The same can be said about occupant flows in architecture.

True. But I have one word for you.


Movement has been reified in the discussions. Moreover, it is not necessarily any particular form of movement that has been reified, but movement itself.

In urban form movement is considered in design, but it is too often considered as where to do put roads so people can drive from point A to point B. The question of "do we need roads in the first place", or "where will we park when we get there", is less often asked. The reason why the discussion of movement of urban form is critical is acknowledged by urban planner itself. Urban planning is heavily skewed towards building structures for the effective flows of people and goods. It is less often about whether those flows are really necessary in the first place.

Of course, by definition, some flow is necessary. But the question is not what flows are necessary, but how to maximize flows. I am admittedly, looking mostly at the United States and its car obsessed culture in making this point.

Comparatively, in Japan, it is possible to live in the country-side without a car, let alone in the city. The necessary avenues of movement are there to move people from point A to point B and back again. And yet, much of Japan is still of a very old urban form, where except for the main arterials, there are many places where automobiles are not even considered in the design and layout of the region.

Much of the Japanese urban landcape is pedestrian based. Even in newer urban spaces, like the perfect grid of central Fukuoka City, there are very few cars on the side roads that were built for them. They are more sort of long narrow parking lots for the shops on them. And I can assure you that you definitely feel like you are invading non-automotive space when driving down them. Compare that feeling to stepping into a sidestreet in New York City.

The practical upshot is that movement can take many forms in urban design, yet much urban design can get caught up in specific kinds of movement. Currently it is the automobile. Before that it was the trolley car, before that the railroads, before that the barge canals, before that navigable bays and channels, and long before that the processional routes to the temples.

But there is an important shift that occurred somewhere around the rise of Mercantilism. That is movement ceased to be about how people move and become more about how good and resources move. In other words, urban form became less about people and more about the flow of goods and services. In other words, it became about things.

This brings us back to my mention in a previous post about modern architecture and urban form being about the technology and the people. Movement is no longer really seen as something that people do, but rather as a technique. Which is to say, it is no longer a verb, to move, but has been reified into a thing, movement.

Its thingness can be clearly seen in a work like the OMA redesign of the Seattle Public Library. The stacks form a beautiful flow, progressing gracefully through the building from one end of the catalog to the other. The entire building has a nice organic feel to it in terms of the way things flow through it.

So why can't people find their way around the building?

Well, besides the need for better wayfinding, the fact that the building itself represents or captures a certain type of flow or movement, does not mean that this movement is commensurable with the needs of humans moving through it. In fact, the self-contained, fluid spiral of movement that is the building's conceptual structure, may actually be disorienting to people since it's self-contained nature creates and illusion of seamlessness that make the interfaces with exterior elements more difficult to find. Interfaces such as ... exit doors.

A beautiful building, of course, and it captures a representation of organizing knowledge whose structure is seemingly continuous and lends itself to being represented as a flow. In those senses it is very much a success. The failure of people to find their way around it is, by contrast, almost a triviality. It is easily fixed by some improved signage to help with wayfinding.

The problem arises in that this building is not unique in its failure to adequately address the way in which people will move through space in relation to the final structure. Though, admittedly, compared to most of what is out there, it makes a darn good attempt.

Whenever designing a structure for human use or habitation, we need to make sure the human factor does not get missed in the design. Talking about movement needs to start with how it is that people move about and what can be done to maximize the valency of simple human movement. Not transportation, movement. Movement, in the end, is a something that people do, not an abstract concept to be represented in material form, except as art.

Candy Corns

From my friend Moo, on the having of a bad day ...

RIP: 11oz Brach's Candy Corn

Ingredients: Sugar, Corn syrup, love, salt, honey, gelatin, comfort, confectioner's glaze, bliss, dextrose, satiety, artificial flavor, titanium dioxide color, nostalgia, yellow 6, yellow 5, regret, red 2, blue 1, gastralgia.

Kowloon (in SL)

Well first you need to check out Wikipedia to find out where and what Kowloon is.

Since it's old organic form is finally giving way to development, it has been in the architectural news quite a bit as of late. But it is, in essence, a very high density urban structure built by the people for the people. Sort of a primitive arcology.

In Second Life, there is a sim called Kowloon which does a decent job of giving on a sense of what it is like to live in such a place. It is small, cramped and dark, with multiple levels to move around in and things tucked into the weirdest corners.

Judging from much of the signage, it was built by some people who speak Japanese fluently and English less so. Guessing that makes them Japanese, but won't swear to it.

Being full of interesting spaces, surprises and jokes, and cheap stuff to buy, it is a fun place to get lost in for a bit.

Though the cheap stuff to buy raised an interesting question from someone I was talking to, which is why is is that most of the Japanese designers charge very low prices for what they sell in SL, compared to some of the gouging to be found elsewhere. Are they just happy to earn enough to make tier? Or maybe just happy that people would actually buy their stuff?

I want on a shopping spree while in Kowloon and returned with a huge collection of 百円 swag (dollar store swag).

25 September 2008

Product Placement

An interesting art project and political statement involving Second Life.

And the even more interesting entirely unanticipated real world side-effects.

With commentary from Wired.

Make Your Own Money

An interesting bit of discourse on the nature of the current economy courtesy of boingboing.

To summarize:

Our current economic system is based on borrowing to pay off debts. Since you have to borrow more than the previous debt to pay it off, eventually the system has no choice but to collapse.

Only more nuanced and well argued than that.

Print on Demand

Academics of the world, rejoice!

The print on demand book kiosk. Hopefully coming soon to a book near you.

Though can I say that the Sydney Morning Herald really needs a page redesign ... or at least a big arrow letting people know they need to scroll down.

UPDATE: As this post went live, I checked it again and the page appeared fixed. Odd, I thought. Turns out it is a browser compatibility issue and will sometimes look right, and sometimes look like this ...

24 September 2008

Crime Apparently Does Pay

An interesting article on identity theft from Wired.

The interesting part is the attitudes of the criminals. Simply doing business, complaining on the negative impacts of criminal prosecution on their ability to feed their families, etc.

Interesting for its sheer banality.

Moving Forward

An interesting article on an environmental remediation project in Italy from the New York Times.

Some times you can't move back. Only forward.

Copy of the Sent 2

Yep, continuing saga.

Here I make some assertions of what happened and why. I did not pull these out of the air to justify my reasoning. I was there for the arguments before the policy change was implemented (I was away while it was implemented), and those were the points people were making.

And yes, I did have my knickers in a twist while writing these. Whether appropriate or not. No one likes to be told one week before the beginning of a semester: oh, we don't share course content between faculty anymore, you're on your own for course development.

Since when have I not ruffled feathers? Though I have found it is hard to ruffle feathers of people who are secure in the knowledge they have made a wise decision (even, in fact, if that security is entirely delusional ... it is a matter of comfort, not correctness).

What happened is this.

The school, in order to promote people creating online course content make a rather draconian rule on intellectual property. This was done because the school is severely balkanized and many faculty are firmly convinced that were they to put their content online the school would immediately claim it as their own. (Which in fact, the school could not do unless the faculty specifically signed a contract stating they were signing away their rights.)

The reason for this was that this approach, even though it fosters increased paranoia and creates increased friction between faculty, especially full-time faculty and adjuncts, is because it is much easier to do this than it is for a system so entrenched in its own animosity toward itself to work on effective community building. As such, it was meant as a politically expeditious ruling (a bribe as it were) to get people to sign on, rather than taking the time to work with them to address the underlying issues creating such mutual distrust.

The key problem in the approach is that it conflates usage rights with ownership rights to the detriment of communication, serving the student population, and general effective pedagogy by reducing the amount of contact and sharing of knowledge between faculty.

Being an instructor is not about "mine, mine, mine" but about service to the student population. The same is true of being in school administration.

In other words, from the perspective of placating those who function from a stance of distrust of the intent of the administration and of fellow faculty members, it makes perfect sense, but that doesn't make it good policy. Rather it is a necessary evil because people don't seem to want to do what it takes to establish a sense of community and the corresponding effective communications.

In order to institute such a policy sensibly, it is important that a clearly defined and centralized process be in place to deal with the distribution and sharing of information for the purpose of ensuring content equity and consistency between sections of the same class. This must not rely on faculty scrambling at the last second to contact prior instructors for the right to borrow materials from their shells. Especially since it will most likely occur at times in the year when faculty are not regularly checking their e-mail.

To set the policy with no structured way of navigating through it means we are tossing academic integrity out the window in favor of pandering to paranoia, self-interest, and learning to distrust each other because every faculty member is just a criminal waiting to happen. Which is exactly the sort of thing people should get their feathers ruffled about.

For instance, a simple Excel spreadsheet listing by course of who has developed content for what that is only used to indicate when faculty specifically do not want to share their content, and a simple process (like e-mail reminders once a semester for change requests) to keep them up to date. There should also be standard shells from the faculty of record which other instructors are allowed to diverge from but are encouraged to start with.

If you are the only person teaching course X, then yes, you can jealously guard it all you want, but when there are four full time faculty and six adjuncts all teaching sections of the same course, then such an approach becomes more than slightly problematic.

[A snipped section of discussing just how few people I complained about this to, all listed by name.]

So yeah, it is poorly thought out approach beyond serving its tangential goals and as such I will complain about it. Doesn't mean I don't understand it, just don't agree with it.

23 September 2008

The Shape of the Divine

In Everyware, Adam Greenfield talks about the coming age of ubiquitous computing and makes an interesting assertion: in the creation of a responsive technosphere that responds to our every action we are reestablishing the ideal of an animistic universe. The spirits would be man-made and in that sense not separate from us, but everything could have the potential for a rudimentary consciousness and ability to respond to us, to interact with us, and to be fickle and not do quite what we wanted. (It will be interesting to see what rituals grow out of this.)

More to the point, he asserts that this drive towards creating an animistic universe exists because it has been absent from our cultural traditional for so short a time in the grand scheme of things that it's absence is a mere blip on the cultural radar. Nor is he alone in this assertion. David Noble, in The Religion of Technology present us with the argument, echoed by many others, that religion is still a motivating force in much of our technological development. Bruno Latour takes it a step further and says we have not even got past being proper Platonists yet, let along having come any further along the ladder of social and cultural advancement (We Have Never Been Modern), an the greatest flaw of modernism was failing to realize its own ideals in favor of merely assuming we were right and and didn't need to address the big picture because external variables were inconsequential.

The divine has always been part of our built environment. And, in many ways, it can be seen as the part of our built environment that does try to capture the big picture. That big picture may, in and of itself, have been incomplete, otherwise why keep looking, but it was present.

The history of the divine in the built environment is talked about enough that I am going to move rapidly to the present. I just want to take a moment to point out that the point of the divine in the built world is to make the the building, the space, the thing created, an object of transcendence, to move us, or inspire us, toward perfection. From the Greek search for perfect forms to the Medieval cathedrals to the exuberant displays of wealth of the Baroque and Rococo back to the search for pure and clean forms of modernism, there has been a notion of the transcendent all the way across history.

With the rise of the Industrial era, phasing into the Modern, and then the post-modern, there appears to be a break from this history of the divine, a removal of God-with-a-capital-G from the picture within the Western tradition. Yet, there are two key points here. One is that God-with-a-capital-G was a relative late-comer to the roots of the Western tradition, only spending the last 2000 years as something other than the belief of a small, rather oppressed, minority. Moreover, such monotheism seems to be something unique to the Western tradition (allowing for its origins in what we now define as the Middle East). From a perspective of the global Web of beliefs it is just a drop in the bucket, regardless of its current popularity..

Back to the beginning and the point about a return to animism. The divine has been present, though as it was before, it is again, not focused on one God, but rather on that which we hold to be transcendent, having properties if the divine. If the works of David Noble, David Nye, and others are to be believed, that thing which we hold to be transcendent is that elusive creation known as technology. Certainly it fits the criteria of the divine, and overarching, ubiquitous, undefinable force that has a perpetual and significant impact on our lives, or relations, and how we conduct ourselves.

We have replaced transcendence through external agency with transcendence through our own means, but the idea of transcending, of reaching the divine has not gone away. Much of what has come after the rigors of Modernism can be seen as a casting about for new forms to realize then, when Modernism itself clearly failed to produce. The monolith has failed us, so let's try the fluid, the imperfect, the incomplete, the ironic, the retro, the contradictory. Yet, as with the Modern, much of it is still a veneer over the simple necessities of functionality and usability. This is not to say that wonderful things do not sometimes result, but so do ridiculous things, much like everything that came before.

But today's changes in the built environment are also caused by another force: the monotheistic mindset. In holding our own creations as transcendent, we persist in doing so from the stance of one right answer, one true path to transcendence.

I would propose that the one true path we have fixated on is movement. Moving as fast as possible, through space with vehicles, through time with acceleration of technological advance, in place through media that brings the entire world into the here and now. But except for the last item, that is not transcendence. For movement to be transcendent, it must obliterate time and space and put everything in the here and now. The vehicle to move people between perfect spaces was the core of the Modern. Now we instead try to move spaces to people through idealized abstractions.

And that is the next item.

Mitchell Joachim on Sustainability

Mitchell Joachim on sustainability (from Wired).

"I don't like the term," he says. "It's not evocative enough. You don't want your marriage to be sustainable. You want to be evolving, nurturing, learning."

You know you want one ...

Decapitated horse head pillow from the good people at Kropserkel.

Some of their other stuff is pretty cool too.

22 September 2008


I must admit, I find the ideas that Paolo Soleri puts forward on single structure mega-cities to be utterly fascinating. His ideas at times seem to have an odd undertone of misogyny, praising a technological future encased in the symbolism of human-male hegemony. But there is still some pretty awesome stuff there. His works are a must read for anyone exploring architecture, urban form, anthropology, and the human condition. For his notion of residual anguish if nothing else.

And yet, this project, from MAD, is something I find to be creepy. Something about the social politics presented are extremely discomforting. Pay attention to the implied definitions of education and culture.

Consumer Ideology

Some interesting observations regarding design, ideology, consumerism, and the Cold War, courtesy of the BBC.

The Magick Bullet

This is connected to the notion of utopia and the perfect form.

The magick bullet is the one perfect solution that is going to make everything better. An idea that is in many ways part and parcel of utopian idealism, implicit in the hubris to assume that your solution will in fact succeed where others have failed and will make the world a better place. Such is hubris well spent, normally, but it is hubris nonetheless. Particularly because most such ideations get fixated on one solution to one problem or one set of solutions to one set of problems, on the assumption that fixing that will cause everything else to fall conveniently into place.

Thus we are first presented with Plato's Republic, ruled by carefully schooled philosopher kings, who are more equal than others, and who will bring the world to a grandeur akin to Hesiod's Golden Age. And from there we progress through the Western tradition (I confess not having enough knowledge on other traditions to speak meaningfully about them) in a series of what are essentially debates on who is fit to rule and why, each manifest in material form and represented in architectural and urban forms. Of course, the argument about who is fit to rule in this context is not one of who is the wisest, for the scholars long ago realized that wisdom has many faces. It is not a matter of how much wisdom, but rather whose wisdom and correct and contains the greater truths that will lead the world toward perfection.

Although it is easy to find the historical record of this, bringing it closer to the modern time makes it more difficult to see who is propounding what. And there is a reason for that.

Somewhere in the evolution of modernism and its children we made the shift from which ideas and ideals, in their realization, will provide the magick incantation that will make the world a better place. Now we instead are caught up in which devices and forms will provide this for us. Certainly the first glimmer of this can be seen in things like Ebenzer Howard's Garden cities, but it is much more evident in the new urbanism. In the new urbanism, it is not a set of ideals that make the place a good place, but the correctness of its form. The new urbanism builds infrastructures for living. And, as people are finding, just because it is built to look like the perfect place ...

So we hunt for forms that will somehow allow us to transcend to a better world, not only in highly planned urban forms, but also in architectures that attempt to be the voice of the new, somehow invoking deep insights in the masses, leading to a realization of an elightened populace through expanded consciousness. At least, I can think of no other motivation for such experimentation beyond ego. Not that much of it isn't beautiful to behold. But we tend not to hear as much about functionally aesthetic as we do pure aesthetic. We hear much more about Frank Gehry's latest melted contribution than we do about things like the ACROS building in Fukuoka. Unless, of course, we are reading books by Ken Yeang and studying sustainable design.

Although sustainable design fits this mould of forms and technologies as magick bullets. Who knows, it may even validate the idea that good forms make good people and all this bickering about who's ideals were right are an antiquated way to try to make things better. It is also a nice segue into the other aspect of the topic: technology and devices as solutions.

Much architecture and urban form in the modern age is built around the idea that certain technologies will automatically make things better. Certainly an inarguably visible one is the automobile and the idea of personal transport. If everyone is free to move where they will, as they will, the world will be a better place. The problem, of course, is that the resources of the world are not sufficient to support everyone in the world having a car, except maybe as a place to live, There is just not enough room to put everyone on the roads. Besides, where would they go where we to succeed?

The problem with expecting technologies and devices to move us toward utopia (barring being able to find it on a map and driving there) is two fold:Oone is that the forms we devleop begin to become more focused on accomodating that device or technology and less on human needs. The other is the surrendering of agency to that technology to allow it to assist us, even though it is an agency that the technology does not possess. In other worlds we expect something an inanimate object to actively assume the role of caring for us. This is where the magick bullet comes into the picture.

The point of the magick bullet is that even though it is supposed to be an inanimte object, technology, or concept, devoid of agency, it is nonethelss infused with a divine agency (thus the magick bit) which allows it to function in a way that goes far beyond its expected parameters and create some effect, hopefully for the better.

In many ways it is taking the idea of unintended consequences and trying valiantly to ascribe them to something by laying claim to an unkonw agency, and then extending that to the assumption that there is yet more agency to be discovered if we can just purify our bullet and find its true form.

I would hope that for some of you, in the context of the discussion, the notion of "purify" is cause for a momentary discomfort. It should be. The world is a messy place, and works much better when allowed to stay that way.

Beause of this shift from representation of ideals as forms to the presentation of the ideal device or technology in the way on which we build our structure and urban forms we have created a model for both architecture and urban form that are no longer about place. They are no longer about capturing our ideals both projective and in the historical trappings of our culture. Rather they are about representing the machine which constructed them. The putatively post-modern of today (and whatever we chose to name what has come after it) is not so much about the destruction of form as it is about representing the limits of technology. Put simply: look what I can do with my toys.

Certainly this has happened across history, just look at cathedrals. The difference is that prior forms were grounded in cultural context, a context of human society, not of machine. The beginning of this loss of the human component is as old as the Industrial Revolution, though it did not really gain strength until the height of modernism, where the worship of clean and crisp efficiency stripped away the old cultural trappings, which now only return in ironic, rather than iconic, forms.

When we find people competing to design the largest, tallest, or most abstract building yet to grace the skyline of Dubia, or of Mumbai, we see forms not generated for people, but to praise the machine. In other words, we have not escaped modernism, only purified it (there's that word again) and abstracted it, so it is an empty vessel that no longer contains a assumption of the same clean efficiencies with.

21 September 2008

Urban Myths

An interesting collection of short works of fiction (single pagers) from airoots.

God Save the Queen

Yes, more punk than the original.

20 September 2008

Look kid, you can't make this stuff up ...

China accuses the United States of quickly doctoring the moon last weekend to cover up a new lunar feature they discovered recently.

Yeesh, don't they know that all out outer space exploration has been faked in a Hollywood studio. Any conspiracy buff will tell you that. At least the ones who worry about some angel getting a rocket up the butt.

From Push The Third button Twice.

Utopia and the Perfect Form

Architecture and urban form are representations of notions of the perfect world, either with form as container, reflection, or shaper of some ideal state. From Plato's philosopher kings ruling over the agora and the ancient Chinese urban plans reflecting the order of the universe to Paolo Soleri's arcologies and the new urbanism that is the most recent incarnation of the the new towns / garden cities movement and is elegantly iconized in Harmony, Florida.

There is a great deal of questing in both architecture and urban design for the perfect form, as if creating the perfect form will cause the social order within it to naturally fall into place.

The problem with this is not that it overlooks the sloppiness of everyday life. Much of it does address this. There is a ready wealth of discourse on the failings of Harmony, Florida as corporate ownership shifted hands and many corners cuts and promised amenities sacrificed for higher profits. Paolo Soleri, a dogged utopian, openly states he is proposing new tools to think with, not solutions guaranteed to perfect the world.

The problem, instead, if we are to accept the ideas of Karl Mannheim in this context, is that in realizing utopian ideals in material form we begin the shift from their representing a utopian goal to an ideological one. The manifest form of an ideal cannot address every possible permutation required to achieve perfection, and therefore becomes a standard-bearer calling for an urealizable state, an inconvenient paradox necessary to justify its own existence. An ideal made manifest produces a form that is no longer a continuing progression toward realizing that ideal, but rather a static representation of that status quo at its time of inception. Almost by definition, the material fights against progress except in very narrowly defined and sanctioned channels.


Just when I thought it was safe to stop living in fear ...

Don't say you weren't forewarned.

19 September 2008

Movement as Fetish

Is it just me or has movement become a fetish? I mean, it has been a fetish since the Marinetti's Futurism, if not from the inception of the steam locomotive. But even the locomotive moved at a relatively human scale, and modernism, with its clean, crispness held motion in check in its fixation on primal, rigid forms.

In many places I look movement seems to have been promote to the driving factor in much of what passes for design today. I don't just mean in engaging online environments, but in everything we do.

From the way we build our cites to the way we build our corporations, from networking to miniaturization to the deconstruction of form. We run wires between places and keep trying to make things smaller so everything can be here and now and we don't have to go anywhere else, or be anywhere else to acquire it. And yet no thought is given to that terminal of here and now and how it should be designed. It is just an abstract node in the network. The only people getting good design of the here and now are wealthy people who hire their own designers to build something customized for them (and, ironically, in this age of growing awareness of disparity, the severely impoverished rural citizens of industrialized nations ... and sometimes non-industrialized ones).

The egotistical architecture of the moment ... which is to say, what is hot, because organizations, municipalities, and people that want to flout their egos commission egotistical architecture ... is the architecture of the fluid. Amorphous deconstructions of buildings that look like they are in the midst of flowing apart, or appear incomplete, like something waiting to happen, each a fluid form caught in transition between stable states.

All this seems to come at the cost of designing for both people and place. Foresaking the rough form of the tactile in favor of the smooth and only purportedly sensual. The sleek interface of an iPod is not sensual. Silk is sensual. So is tree bark. An iPod is austere. A very aesthetically pleasing austere, but austere. It seems we have cast aside the underlying structures on which we build our modernist facades, but kept the modernist facades. Not so much for their aesthetics, as their efficiency. Clean is only one form of aesthetic, and only one form of beauty. Baroque is another. Organic yet another. They are also more expensive to manufacture than clean and austere. And it looks like things would flow off it so smoothly. The clean lines we have retained from modernism are symbolic of movement, and are realized as such by divorcing them from the primal and static forms they used to enshroud.

On the other hand, at least the iPod is well designed. That is because it is a conduit for bring everything to the here and now. But the here and now? Cheap balloon frame houses, too large for any practical use, or for most to afford in sprawling developments of uniform mediocrity. Safe for kids? Probably. Healthy for the human psyche? Well, that's a different story. The modern suburban housing track differs from old, cramped industrial row houses only in scale and the surface veneer, not in substance.

People and place need mixes of aesthetic. Uniformity and austerity create neutral spaces meant to abstract people from the space they are in. Spaces that are easy to slip through on the way to somewhere else. We need dynamic spaces that are about interactions, not about movement. At least from this perspective, there is something to recommend the architecture of egotism, even when it is fixated on movement in its forms of representation: it mixes things up, it adds to the melting pot of ideas, it competes with the other structures that are architectures of ego around it, and it creates a locus around which to build place. Of course, only really relevant for markets, civic and cultural buildings, but there is some seed of inspiration to be found there.

Conspiracy and Violence

Two items that explain sooooo much.

Both from failbog.

18 September 2008

16 September 2008

Copy of the Sent 1

The continuing saga of what happens when, after being tenured, you forget that adjunct faculty don't have freedom of speech.

I thought I would post some of my original e-mails, so people can see what got me canned. And names have been changed to protect the innocent. This was in reply to another faculty member who sounded a little annoyed (and definitely patronizing) that I would ask for a copy of their shell. I should point out that the course is question, though I never taught it, is one I was responsible for developing and pushing through curriculum committee. So yeah, I was a little indignant myself.

You can tell I go into academic-speak when annoyed.

Moot point. The section was canceled again only about two days after it was opened.

But in fact, I don't think I should be developing my own work. Nor should you. Nor should anyone else. Either people should be working collaborative to develop the course materials, or a faculty of record should take the lead in developing the course materials and other faculty should be expected to toe the line to some degree. I prefer the former, though the latter is bureaucratically easier.

Otherwise accreditation issues involving consistency across sections becomes a nightmare as there is no effective way to ensure consistency of academic quality across sections. Consistency needs to happen in the process of development, not be evaluated after the fact. Such a gap is a grave disservice to the students.

Not to mention, why would any of us volunteer to increase our workload like that, with all of us duplicating each other's work?

In any event, I changed my mind on asking for shell copies from other faculty so that I might instead put my shells out there under clearly indicated Creative Comments Attribution - Share Alike licenses. Which means that a.) anyone else can use my work for their classes without having to ask for my permission (it is implicit in the license), and b.) must do so under the same license.

Because I simply refuse to fear my fellow faculty and treat them as potential thieves before even getting out of the starting gate. The idea of "mine, mine, mine" has no place in a robust educational structure. By hoarding our own works we are compromising a quality education in favor of simple greed and/or paranoia. I just don't buy this individually-tailored balkanization stuff.

And by structuring it this way, the school know has a valid argument on why to never compensate anyone for course development. This is, of course, ignoring the fact that even the meager adjunct rate is roughly 3 times the hourly rate when compared to classroom hours, which is to say or 1/3 for class, 1/3 for grading, 1/3 for development ... check the math yourself if you doubt me ... hourly rate is around $20 for emergency substitution in a class, adjunct compensation rate is around $60 for classroom hour). So yes, you are in fact getting compensated for developing the course as part of the payment for the course. This is also why the credit-free courses often pay different rates based on the expected amount of development required.

Build Your Own World

Looking to build you own world?

Well, here is the beginning of a series from Wired with plenty of resources, as well as Wikipedia entry on that very topic.

Okay, mostly a tool for gamers of sci fi / fantasy writers, but the story comes from a dad encouraging the idea of fictional worlds for your kids.

15 September 2008


Okay, I want.

I'll switch back to a Windows computer if it looks like this ...

Or maybe I'll just install Linux or something.

Computer from HP but much better pictures on designboom.

So people look at me funny when, given my background and my skill base, they find I'm a Mac person. I tell them: I've worked twenty years in various capacities as a programmer and developer and educator for the same. I really don't want to have to think about how I'm doing what I'm doing, I just want to focus on the doing. Computers are tools, not objects of worship. Therefore, they should do exactly what you want them to do in the easiest, least complicated, most transparent way possible.

Give me aesthetically pleasing and easy to use over beefed up with everything but the kitchen sink any day.

The fact that they can look really pretty while doing what I need it to do is just icing on the cake. It is probably telling that before being a Mac person I was a Sony person.

Okay, easy to use is a loaded term. I still do all my development work in code editors, because, well ... it's easier to use than navigating the menu hells of GUIs.

But this one ... I still want. Hope it's not too expensive.

Life Imitates Art

From the BBC News Service ...

Life imitates art in the 2008 U.S. elections.

The Future is Here

And, as usual it looks kinda lame. But don't worry, it will get better.

Forbes prints an e-paper magazine cover from The Dastardly Report.

Soft of a waste of valuable natural resources if you ask me. But nobody did. So nevermind.

Something a little more practical from the NYTimes.

But I am waiting for the day that e-books can be read in book form, which some nice rugged but paper feeling tyvek-like pages and a thumb-drive port in the spine.

14 September 2008

Opportunity Knocks

I haven't gotten one of these on so long. I feel all warm and nostalgic ...

TEL: 00-233-248885169,


My name is Offori Atta; I am the Regional manager of SSB Bank of Ghana Takoradi branch in the western Region of Ghana. I am married with two lovely kids. I am a man of peace and I don't want problems, I only hope you can assist me. I have packaged a financial transaction that will benefit you and I, as the Regional manager of SSB Bank it is my duty to send in a financial report to my head office in the Capital city Accra at the end of each Business Year.

On the course of the last year 2007 Business Report, I discovered that my branch in which I am the manager made Twenty-Two million five hundred and twenty thousand US Dollars ($22,520,000.00) which my head office are not aware of and will never be aware of. I have placed this fund on what we call escrow call account with no beneficiary.

As an officer of this Bank I cannot be directly connected to this money, so my aim of contacting you to assist me receive this money in your Bank account and get 30% of the total fund as commission though is negotiable.

There are practically no risk involved, it will be a Bank to Bank Transfer, all I need from you is to stand claim as the Original depositor of this funds who made the deposit with my branch so that my head office can order the transfer to your designated Bank account. If you accept to work with me I will appreciate it very much.

My private phone number and my email is the above. Call me if you think we can work together so that we can go over the details, Thank you in advance and may God bless.

Yours truly,

Offori Atta

Though it is interesting that these used to be about sympathy mixed with a fat reward for being a good samaratan (I need to flee the country with my untold millions, but can't just put it in a suitcase) and they now just seem to be about plain out and out greed.

Any Questions?

Well, thank the gods we cleared that one up!

From the CBS store.

13 September 2008

Korean Moms

Okay, I don't have a Korean Mom. I have a good old-fashioned American farm girl mom.

Still, the blog Stuff Korean Mom's Like is way too funny and has my sympathies.

China Corners Cute

Okay, I think China has just cornered the cute auto market. Aside from the death trap size of them on American roads, I would love to drive some of these.

From Wired.

From Bei Jing Li Shi Guang Ming Automobile Design Co.

Most of the good pictures are on the Chinese side. Third link on the menu for those who don't read any Chinese (like me).

12 September 2008

Copy to the People

Okay, another chapter on the politics of academe and what I said to lose me an adjunct position at a school where I had previously held tenure for a period of time.

As a recap:
4 -- Copy to the Check
3 -- Open Source College Textbooks
2 -- Copy to the Door
1 -- Copy to the Left, Copy to the Right

I want to make a bold pronouncement here.

Intellectual property rights are bad for education.

Now, let me be the first one to say they are important, and even necessary. They certainly benefit the owners of the intellectual property.

The problem is that they can negatively impact the quality of education.

So let's start at first principles ... what is education? Well, it is the system of educating others, for helping to grow and develop and to give them the knowledge they need to function in some context or another. From the general context of a well-rounded public education to the specific contexts that one finds in Ph.D. programs and technology training programs. (Okay, I can't believe I just put those two on an equal footing in the same sentence either.)

So it is the sharing of knowledge. The knowledge, at least in the dumbed-down super-simplistic model, flows from the instructor to the students. This means that, by definition, education is about the sharing of knowledge so that others can take it and make use of it.

Intellectual property is, on the other hand, about the protection of knowledge, preventing others from using it without express permission of the author / originator. And already you begin to see the problem. Even if, by teaching a class, the instructor has implicitly agreed to allow students to use the knowledge they have chosen to structure in a particular way in its presentation, there is already a slippery slope where students have to worry about what portions of what they have learned they are and are not allowed to use beyond the confines of the originating classroom.

Fortunately, that can be resolved with the original research concept, where students are supposed to go beyond their instructors and further the realm of knowledge, either through day to day application or through the creation of new intellectual properties. It may still be a minefield of legal pitfalls, but at least it comes with a map and a clearly marked exit. (This is only a problem when different instructors give you contradictory maps and insist you use theirs to the exclusion of all others.)

But really, instructors assume students are going to make use of what they are taught, so that is a pretty weak opposition to intellectual property. The problem is that it is only the tip of the iceberg. It is what we see, and what we think of as education. But as with the iceberg, most of what education is exists below the waterline, beyond the classroom.

In order to educate, instructors must educate themselves. They must then document what they have learned in order to educate others. That process of documentation is the point at which new intellectual property is generated.

There are two ways in which instructors can educate themselves. One is by locking themselves away with the works of others and hunting for answers. The other is communicating with other instructors and sharing ideas and works to build something that works.

This is where intellectual property law throws a wrench in the machine.

Although many instructors, at least at the university level, are happy to collaborate on research, they seem significantly less happy to collaborate of pedagogy. Thus you hear endless horror stories from college adjuncts having opportunities to teach a class only to find all three full-time faculty have entirely different syllabi, outlines, and expectations from the course and none of them are willing to share any of the actual course materials unless they are teaching canned courses purchased by the school. This can inspire many an adjunct aspiring to be a tenured faculty member some day to go into private industry instead. Especially the competent ones.

This is a problem.

What it means is there is no quality assurance between sections of the class, no collaboration between faculty to find weaknesses and strengths in each other's work, and large quantities of duplicated effort (every second of which is agonizingly complained about) as each faculty member strives to reinvent the wheel. Practical upshot: Two students taking the same course at the same institution with two different instructors have no guarantee of having the opportunity to learn the same material at the same levels of depth and breadth.

Moreover, with each faculty member striving to reinvent the wheel we find many faculty end up opting for lowest-common-denominator education because there just isn't enough time to do that really good job they all secretly want to do. (Academics are rabid perfectionists, otherwise they wouldn't put up with what they put up with to do what they do.) It also creates dismay among faculty who would like to be spending more time doing research and less time doing course prep. Admittedly, more an issue for junior faculty not teaching things they have taught for 20 years, but those are also the ones trying to establish a publications record, be a good institutional citizen, and get tenure.

So, and I wish I could say this is purely hypothetical, intellectual property rights in the academic setting leads to inconsistent and mediocre educational quality. The places that avoid this are the ones that actively encourage (if not mandate) sharing between faculty.

In order for education to be truly successful, instructors need to actively and freely share their course materials and ideas with one another to ensure consistency across courses and sections. This would reduce their work loads, provide initial support networks for adjuncts and new faculty, and strengthen pedagogy through simple peer review.

Sharing is critical to education. There is no room for "mine, mine, mine" in the pedagogical frame. It needs to be about "we" and "us" and, most importantly, about students. It is not about egos. Okay, the problem is that it is about egos, and it shouldn't be.

The current trends in attitudes toward intellectual property are giving us educators who feel that the resources they have created for learning are tools from them to profit from and not tools to help others to learn. I am not entirely sure the two are commensurable.

This needs to change.

This doesn't mean that faculty members need to do the same with all their research, just with their course materials. Independent research, as well as being a tool to further knowledge, is rather openly a tool for personal gain on the part of the researcher. Otherwise why give up having a life in order to spend all that time on a topic maybe 1% of the world has any interest in, if you're lucky. That works better through collaboration too, but what I am talking about with course materials is open and unfettered sharing, not unlike MIT does with its course materials.

Okay, in my next rant on the topic, I will take a stab at how it can change and some if the ideas we need to think about in order to make sharing palatable for the greedy and the paranoid (alas, a common breed among underpaid, overworked, entirely stressed out academics).

A Lost Artist, A Lost Art

Nagi Noda, 1973-2008

Slightly more distressing because she did all this awesome stuff and is nearly a decade younger than me. I am both saddened and humbled. Or at least made to feel a little pathetic.

Some Links:

My personal favorite music video of hers, from Halcali, and how I first found her work. (As a side note, no wonder I couldn't find ハリカリ online after getting back to the States ... I kept putting that extra "i" in there ... oh well.)

11 September 2008


Moo's rez-day is Sepetember 16th, so we're holding a big party for her at the Mubar Cafe and Gardens.

SLURL: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Pulu%20See/136/204/2

And if that sounds like total gibberish to you, then this post is probably not for you.

It is an open event (which means you're all invited) with an awesome lineup of people. The party starts at 7pm with the following line-up:

  • Peregrine Singh: 7pm to 8pm
    Mellow, free-form worldbeat of his own creation.
  • Jano Runo: 8pm to 9pm
    An eclectic mix of Latin American beats with spanish guitar and song.
  • Madness Axon: 9pm until she gets sick of us (hopefully that will be later than 9:02)
    A top notch, a slightly out-there DJ, spinning tunes that run the spectrum, mostly in the wonderfully weird range.

The event will be listed in the SL events board as well.

More Futures Soleri Style

More futures Paolo Soleri stye:

From Japan, where arcologies are a staple in their science fiction fare (yes, the Superdimensional Space Fortress counts too):

Spain brings us the bionic tower.

And from treehugger: Paolo Soleri is Hot Again

10 September 2008

Form Letter

Was cleaning out my mail boxes and found this. It was a gem. Brightened my day with a good laugh. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Hello, my name is Gurn Blanston and I am a technical recruiter with the Computer Markup.

We are among the top 34 Information Technology Services Companies nationally with revenues approaching $200 million for 2008 and provide a variety of information technology consulting assignments, permanent placement, managed staffing and project services to our mature client base that include state, local and federal organizations as well as Fortune 1000 companies. We have over 5,000 consultants working at our clients today.

I am contacting you because your resume looks excellent for a technical position with a prestigious client for which we are currently sourcing. I’d like to speak with you at your earliest convenience and can be reached at 1-800-000-0000. If you prefer to contact me via email my address is gbl@markups.com.

If you’d like, please also visit our website, www.markups.com. It will be very helpful in having you learn more about us. I look forward to speaking with you soon.




Mail Clerk

[the rest is omitted because there isn't much else to say.]

Something about all that hype, reaching someone with nearly 20 years of industry experience, then I get to the job description. Was too funny to be offended.

Born Rich

A blog for the rich person in search of more everything to add to the everything they already have ... Born Rich.

Cool and oddly disturbing at the same time.

09 September 2008

Political Tie-Ins

Only in Japan could you get cookies as commercial tie-ins to the current prime minister ...

From Pink Tentacles.

The French / Japanese Connection

Haven't quite figured out the connection between French Lounge and J-Pop, but it is there.

Here's an example from boingboing.

And here is the site for the album it goes with.

And, of course, even before that ... Gainsbourg Made in Japan.

Okay, and this is just irresistable ... :)

And just one more ... honest.

08 September 2008

Foreign News

Just in case you don't think the world isn't paying attention. Or reporting the news with a different spin.

The best part is the "party" quote. I wonder if there was cake at the party.

Okay, the next one is kind of funny too. Apparently, anarchists want to go back to an anarchist government, just like we used ot have before some point or another, I guess, maybe, sort of ... ummm ... nevermind.

Magnetic Fields

Freaky cool video trying to give you a visual sense of magnetic fields and how they behave.

From semiconductor films.

Plenty of other cool visualizations of the abstract on the site. They attempt to take difficult concepts in science and explain them through art.

07 September 2008

The Real Depends on the Virtual

A interesting article from airroots on how the real world is dependent on the virtual world. This virtual world being the abstract one of friendship -- connections that have no basis in the physical world through kinship, but rather operate on another plane. It makes an interesting argument that new communications technologies are not inferior to formal literacy and verbose communications systems, but rather a more accurate reflection of our own internal abstract interaction mechanisms.

A slightly different, and perhaps more anthropological, interpretation of "virtual" than perhaps many of us are used to.


A very interesting video where it appears the police tried to plant rioting anarchists in the crowd as an excuse to charge in and start beating heads.

Problem is that someone in the audience, on video, accused them of being cops. At which point they "charged" the police line and were summarily "arrested" and taken away.

Aside from the video, an interesting point is the still photo, showing that the purported rock throwing anarchist were not only wearing the exact same standard issue boots as the police on the site, but they were all shiny, new boots with a pretty poor attempt made to look them old and well worn.

There is no record of any of the men in question being charged with anything.

This event happened in Quebec City, but it is important to note that in some other reports, the self-styled anarchists in the Twin Cities this week were chasing after the window smashing, dumpster burning members trying to stop them, some of them even stopping to clean up garbage cans that had been upended by them.

Though nice to see the coverage in the Twin Cities is getting a little more even handed, more clearly differentiating between trouble makers looking to incite violence and concerned citizens upset enough about something or another to consider it their duty to protest. A change of tone from what we were seeing earlier.

On a side note, I should point out, I have some good friends who are anarchists. What they mostly do is sit around over some coffee or wine and discuss how the world would be a better place if we could have a fully participatory democracy, and how would be going about doing that in a way that would work. Most of them are old, left wing academics ranging from Marxist to Libertarian in where their stances are coming from. Hardly the type who throw rocks (might strain something) or burn dumpsters (who knows what potential hazards are in there you don't want to be inhaling) or even marching about shouting about things (bad for the old ticker).

06 September 2008

Information Overload

Okay, I tried to follow the convention coverage and to prep myself on the issues and the candidates and discovered that just doing that bit is a full time job plus some.

I mean, fewer than a dozen magazines, a bunch of blogs and video sites, and I am wiped after just trying to survive both conventions.

The new method of keeping people in the dark is to throw so much information at them that they burn out and give up. To much information may be worse than not enough. At least with not enough you can make stuff up.

On the other hand, this might explain why it always seems like the talking heads are just extemporizing and, well, making stuff up. Because they have given up on trying to understand it all and have decided that maybe it is better if they just try to bluff convincingly, hoping that people will be too busy to compare what they said this week to what they said last week (except for the good folks at the Daily Show, who just eat inconsistencies for 4th meal).

Art Noveau

I was just in Brussels! How could I have missed this!

The Horta Museum

And an amazing staircase from stairporn.org.

05 September 2008

Big Gun

Okay, let's not go there shall we ...

Sheriff Lott's New Toy

Though the comments are so far wonderfully flame free, if snarky. Wonder if it is moderated.

From Reason Magazine Hit & Run

Have to say the Libertarians are probably the most eclectic political bunch out there. And for that I like them. Disagree with most of them, but like them.

Builds 17: Mubar

I am working on a small cafe in the garden. It is based on a picture of an interesting sake bar I found and adapted for second life. It is still a work in progress, but aims to be a nice intimate space.

The first shot is out the window. The color balance is a little off, but I really like what the default levels setting did to the wood tone in the shot. So I left it that way instead of manually tweaking.

The second shot is the still incomplete interior. This one is closer to true color. The harpsichord is a little out of place, but I like it and haven't found a proper home for it. Perhaps in the ballroom of the airship.

Still very much work in progress. Needs furnishing and some decor. And I think the roof needs beamwork.

04 September 2008



Feeling guilty about spending so much time reading about convention coverage over the last week or two when I should be out looking for a new job, prepping for taking the GREs (again), so I can go back to school and take another stab at a Ph.D.

Then I feel guilty about feeling guilty. After all, isn't this what we all should be doing? Certainly when compared to playing MMORPGs it is.

Word of the Day

The word of the day is ... greeble.

03 September 2008

Some Good Reading

If anyone besides me somewhat disturbed by the fact that in U.S. cities hosting major political events, free speech is apparently delimited to specified free speech zones, outside of which, and sometimes in which, you will be arrested for such crimes as congregating, placard waving, speaking, singing, dancing, debating, and sometimes just plain trying to get through to the other side.

Some good reading in light of recent events.

McCain's Party Parties

Not McCain, per se, who tried very hard to do what is right, but the rest of his party and those who putatively support him are what is frightening here.

Hard to vote for someone when these are the people who he will bring with him to power.

Some more frightening bits. I realize they are trolls, and I realize that there are trolls on both sides of the fence, but the responses to the following news article are just chilling. Have we decided to the way to prove our honor and worth is through how deeply we can hate one another?

From the Washington Post.

I confess, I generally assume anyone who preaches from a position of hate is wrong. Regardless of whether I agree with their politics otherwise or not. Because if you are preaching from hate, then any veneer of respectability you may put on your words through toeing some political or philosophical line or another is, simply put, a lie you are telling yourself to justify your hate.

Progress comes from finding common ground to build on, and working together to build something suitable for all, not building a tower that leans so far in one direction or the other that it will fall over as soon as the winds change direction. The only problem with the common ground approach is it leaves everyone only partially satisfied. And that gives the discontents room to squawk. Yes, it is better, they cry, but not better enough! How much better when those in power can be more satisfied at the cost of those not in power ... at least until the winds change direction.

Humans scare me at times. I mean, really really scare me. In the so this is where the twisted minds that make horror and slasher flicks come from ... from the depths of dark psyches seeking something to hate, something to fear, something to have power over.

Some interesting tidbits and additional comments can be found here:

02 September 2008

01 September 2008

Builds 16: Garden Expansion

The next door neighbors have moved out to one side, so the garden is getting bigger.

A bamboo grove has sprung up next to the garden, as well as the wisteria just continuing to grow like crazy. And there appears to be something hidden behind all that new growth.