Aug 31, 2006

Short Attention Span Theater

Oy, gut. I am... that word that you get called when you look irritated and ashen and pissed off and exasperated. Beleaguered! That's it. Or maybe Harried.

My work life is comical. Maybe some day I will have a moment to tell you about it.

(I should mention that Poor John has it worse than I do and complains less than I do, just in case he reads this and thinks I'm a pussy because I complain when I'm at work until nine two days in a week.)

Since my attention span is short right now, here's a bulleted list of noteworthy things:

1. I got an award for softball. Ok, fine, it's a lame award and everyone got one. But I got an award for a sport! AND I GOT A SPORTS CARD! With my picture and my stats on it. I have "stats," I can't get over it. I have a "batting average" -- I batted 0.400 this season. Believe THAT!

2. I haven't been to the gym in EVER. It is not a great situation.

3. I haven't been to Yoga in longer. That's no good either.

4. I have, however, been using my waterpik and also doing crunches in the morning. Those are my only two good deeds right now. I think it's paying off, because I went to the dentist this morning and for once didn't get a lecture.

5. This may sound really dorky, and it is, but my neighborhood email listserve somehow started determining who would play who in the musical about our neighborhood. It's funny because many of us haven't even met each other, so we're guessing based on personality and vague descriptions that have been made over the years. When I suggested Maggie Gyllenhaal for myself, someone scoffed, like, "you wish." Dood, what's wrong with that? I don't think it's a stretch, right? Anyway, this person suggested Holly Hunter or that chick that plays the mom on "Malcom in the Middle."


Aug 25, 2006

Usually You Can't Underestimate People

"No one in this world has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people." -- H.L. Mencken

What a terrible quote, right? (Totally valid, but awful nonetheless.) Mencken's got lots more where that came from, on all sorts of topics ranging from love to marriage to politics to generalized cynical pissiness. He was the archetypical Snarky McSnarkerson.* His writings were offensive in so many categories that he was, in a way, universally acceptable no matter how racist, sexist, Anti-Semitic, misogynistic, and otherwise grotesque he became--he was an equal-opportunity hater.

At this point, this post could go in one of two directions. Having introduced Mencken, I could either talk about (a) how I accidentally underestimated the determination and engineering skills of one Jeffrey Vaughan or (b) how much I hate Libertarians and why.

Let's do both. Read on.

* To wit, more Mencken quotables:

Historian: An unsuccessful novelist.

Husband: A No. 16 neck in a No. 15 1/2 collar.

Idealist: One who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.

Immorality: The morality of those who are having a better time.

Love: The delusion that one woman differs from another.

Morality: The theory that every human act must either be right or wrong, and that 99% of them are wrong.

Pastor: One employed by the wicked to prove to them by his example that virtue doesn't pay.

Newspaper: a device for making the ignorant more ignorant and the crazy crazier.

...and my favorite:

Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.

U.Y.C.U.P. Part I: The Libertarian Scourge

Libertarians, FEH! Objectivists, double FEH!

HELLO PEOPLE. Listen to me. "Every man for himself" is a philosophical no-brainer. Sure, yes, survival of the fittest and all that. Social Darwinism, whatever. No taxes? No social services? You think poor people are just bad at life? You think Jews are liberal because they are genetically predisposed towards guilt? You want to Just Say No to compulsory, state-funded education?

Look, there's a big difference between the way the world is if left to its own devices and the way it would be if we got just very slightly more collective here. I'm no socialist, and I'm no bleeding heart. I just want the world I live in to be as AWESOME as possible, which means I don't want to look at homeless people (I want them to have homes), I don't want to encounter stupid people (the result of shitty public schools), I would rather not be a victim of crime (the thing that happens when the have-nots notice the haves), and I want my friends and family to be healthy and cared for (something that can't happen when people can't afford to buy into the health insurance machine).

But this is all tangential to my real beef with Libertarians. My real problem is that I can't deal with people who are emotionally bankrupt. I prefer people who don't separate and alienate themselves from others. I prefer the company of those who posess a certain amount of self-awareness and maybe even some joie-de-vivre. I like people who have friends. So with that, I challenge anyone to find me a Libertarian who's not an arrogant fuck.


U.Y.C.U.P. Part II: In which I Underestimate Jeff Vaughan

You already know that I'm the snarky one. In the absence of contrary data, I assume things won't work the way they're designed to, people will mess up causing me grief, and that taxi will run the red light and knock me off my bike. It's a condition that alternately harms my outlook and prevents me from danger and disappointment. But anyway.

A few weeks ago, I was riding my bike home and passed by a set of rowhouses at 15th and Naudain or thereabouts. There were some people standing around, and I realized one of them was T.J.'s friend Nick, but didn't have time to process and wave before passing by... I also barely perceived that one of the dudes sitting on the stoop was my husband. I got a few houses down the alley, wheeled around and came back to confirm.

So these guys are all sitting/standing around staring at a rather comely mid-century sofa sitting on the sidewalk. After talking with them for a few moments, I got the briefing:

1. The sofa was Jeff's grandmother's and he's very attached to it.
2. We are standing in front of Jeff's house.
3. These guys have been struggling to get the couch in by
    a. shoving it up the stairs but it was too long to turn
    b. hoisiting it up on a rope to the 2nd story window
    c. preparing to cut the thing in two and then repair it
        i. they are waiting for Jeff to get the jigsaw
        ii. They have already started surgery on the fabric bottom to         get to the frame

After I processed all the information, I suggested that what they were doing was going to result in wrecking the couch. Ordinarily, I wouldn't have cared so much, but it was a nice looking couch! A nice looking couch is a rare thing. I pointed out that if they were going to mortally wound the couch and leave it out on the sidewalk to die, they might as well leave it out on the sidewalk with a "free" sign and let someone have it. Jeff had me refer to point (1) which stated that he's really attached to the couch because it was his grandmother's.

As a result of all this negotiating, I told Jeff and T.J. to put the sofa in the Volvo and take it to the Hazel Avenue Estate for short-term storage until they could figure out where to keep it. I was secretly hoping Jeff would leave it for a year or so, and take me up on my offer to borrow a smaller couch of ours, because I totally liked this couch. In any case, I remember doing my usual muttering about boys being knuckleheads and how the whole couch situation was clearly a geometrical no-go from the beginning, and duh it's so obvious, et cetera.

Well, yesterday, T.J. and Jeff went over to get the couch again, and I heard the whole story after the fact. Jeff had gone to the Lowes and bought a beam to stick out the third story window. Who buys a beam? A single beam? I guess it was a long 6x6 or something. He set the beam out the window and had some people sit on it on the inside end. Then, he used the two pulleys he had bought and attached on the other end, hoisted the couch right-side up (not the long way) with relative ease, and guided it through the window.

I underestimated Jeff! I consider myself a person with a lot of determination, and I will NEVER let a problem go unsolved even if there's no obvious way to solve it. But I would not have gone to the store and spent $50 on materials towards a scientific and multi-pronged attack on the gravitational and geometric couch challenge. I just wouldn't have.

I hereby eat crow and boys are not dummies and Jeff is clever and all that good stuff.

Aug 23, 2006

Blogs, dogs, and pickles (in that order)

It's a lot of pressure to write a blog that six people read. You want to really give your all to those six people, and not half-ass the thing. That means some days, when a fully formed post is right there in your head but you don't have time to tap it out, you just skip it altogether because you want each post to be a self-contained nugget of wisdom and if that's not what you have time for, then you'd rather not just blather on about what happened today and blah blah blah.

That said, this is what happened today: we have two dogs instead of one. Not permanently, but for two weeks. We have Ravi, who is Carmen's Number One Main Squeeze. She is very popular and has a lot of boyfriends (because she has a nice personality and is a terrific athlete), but Ravi is the guy she loves the best. Patty (Ravi's owner) and I have discussed how serious this has become, and we think it's ok for them to be going steady as long as they're more or less supervised.

Anyway, so there's two of them and they're the same size and shape and color and everything, although Ravi looks more like a guy somehow. They like to lie around biting each other's necks and snorgling. Today we were watching them do this, and all of a sudden I see a small piece of poop on the floor. A little round piece, like a large milk dud. I yelled "not it" even though it was a really small piece and went upstairs to close the door to the closet with the cat's litterbox, because obviously Ravi must (like Carmen) be interested in cat box snax.

Turns out it was just the end of a small pickle. Seriously, it wasn't poop. It was the end of a pickle! How does the end of a small pickle wind up on the floor? No one knows, but that's exactly what it was. It was good for some chortling... we thought it was poop and it was a pickle!

In other news Carmen is totally vexing. She keeps peeing on the floor. We went back and forth, thinking it was a "leak" because sometimes it was so small and seemed to happen while she was sleeping. Now, three days in a row she has peed robustly on a spot on the carpet. We have diligently Bisseled it up each time. We don't know what else to do, I mean, the girl has it good! T.J. takes her to the dog park TWICE A DAY! It's like two hours or more of each day of his life! Let's see, two hours out of... how many hours is a person awake? Let's say 15. That means that T.J. devotes over 13% of his waking life to exercising the doggie!

We are at a loss. Please help us.

Aug 22, 2006

Slight Diversion until I compose my real post

My boss is famous among his staff for answering a question with a question. And also for responding to specific, clearly-delineated, simple requests with emails that say, "Let's talk. Call me on my cell." He always requests that you call him on his cell, instead of calling you directly, and then he is never there because he's always busy, so he has to call you back anyway after you leave a voicemail. Which he hardly ever does. And he is also well known for ignoring your emails completely because he, "gets so many emails a day, really, you have no idea."

Today, I received this from a coworker who we will refer to as Brand New Dad:

BND says, "I was going through old e-mails looking for some info from Genghis and just for fun I compiled his responses to all my questions since January. I asked a lot more questions; these are only the ones he actually responded to. Italicized text indicates when he actually answered my question. I am not making this up."

Let’s talk.

We need to resolve this today.

Let's talk about this first.

I would respectfully disagree.
Let’s talk

Let’s review this on Tuesday when I get back.

Please go to my office and look the documents.
The right answer will come from them.

I do.
Let’s talk.

Can we have a conference call later on today?
Please call me on my cell.

Please call me on my cell after 4:00 PM.

I would appreciate it if we talk about this at our 1:00 PM conference call.

But we should be able to locate them.
Let’s talk late this PM.

Let’s review later on today in person.

Let’s review with the team later on today.

Let’s discuss tomorrow.

Please see me on this also.

Please see me on this.


Why don’t you bring the info and we can look at the issues in my office.
I will be on a conference call until 2:00 PM.

I will look at this tomorrow.

Chuck has the originals.

Let’s discuss first thing in the morning.

I am not sure that I would agree.
Let’s talk about this

Please call me on this.

Let’s talk about this.

Aug 16, 2006

I watch one T.V. show.


They kicked off Alison Kelly. Auf wiedersehen.


Instead of Vincent, that loony mofo.

Who is responsible?
I know it's not Tim.
Is it that Nina Garcia character?
I bet it was her fault.

Unbelievable. I should go back to playing XBOX and never watch T.V. again.

Goodbye, lovely Alison...

Aug 14, 2006

True Story: Live and Learn

Those of you who read my gemologist tale a few entries back will note that I have gone back to change the names to protect the innocent. (ME! I'm innocent!) I can't believe I used real names! What if Genghis googles himself? What if Poor John googles for "Poor John"? What if Carmen sees that I posted her incontinence for all the world to laugh at? Sometimes, words hurt...

My sense of decorum kicked into gear because the following email exchange just happened:

Date: 2006/08/14 Mon AM 10:44:00 CDT
To: Dubin
Subject: Nice Blog

I ran across your blog just now, I guess I won't take too much offense to my lack of detail with sizing.... :-) So did you try our cheesesteaks yet? I think they should win Best of Philly by next year. We also added breakfast. I'm not sure if eggs fit into the meat category or not. See you soon, your Jeweler

* * * * *
Needless to say, after I got done hiding under my desk out of sheer embarrassment (after all, I essentially said he was a crappy jeweler! and that his mom isn't sweet! holy shit! I take it back, I take it back! Retract, retract!) , I wrote back:

From: Dubin
Date: 2006/08/14 Mon AM 10:54:00 CDT
Subject: Nice Blog

OH SHIT. Well, I guess in my efforts to amuse my friends and myself, I have now made it so that I can absolutely never, ever, ever talk to you or see you ever again because I'm humiliated. Nice knowing you. If you see a girl walking by your store with a bag over her head, that's me. P.S. I should have known you'd google for your brisket to see how high up on the hit list you are! I am an idiot. Plus, the story is embellished for humor's sake, like all good stories are. Did I mention I'm retarded? Love, Dubin

TAKE HEED ALL YOUNG BLOGGERS OUT THERE! Or I guess I am the only one retarded enough to assume one's jeweler isn't googling himself... NOTE-TO-SELF: "Everyone is googling himself!"

Late-breaking post script: The names in the Gemologist posting have been subsequently changed BACK to the way it was before by request of said jeweler.

Date: 2006/08/14 Mon PM 06:13:11 CDT
To: Dubin
Subject: Retraction

A Bubby's Employee did the google search and let me know so I checked it myself. I truly loved the write-up. I always welcome constructive criticism and will do my best to be more detail oriented. The best part is that it was your unedited feeling, and still patronize me in spite of myself. Sincerely, Max

P.S. Please put back the real names. I loved it the way it was. I wanted to show my friends and they got broken links. Please don't be embarrassed.

* * * * *
It seems that Max is the most emotionally healthy, non-defensive dude ever. Or, maybe he's just not mad about me calling him a shitty jeweler because his real love is the brisket, and at night instead of dreaming about old European-cut diamonds, he's drifting off to sleep with images of the fat melting off of delicious brisket and wondering whether eggs fit into the "meat" category or not...

Aug 13, 2006 Calendar Entry

Even though I'm supposed to be studying for my M.E.P. exam, I just finished shooting and cropping my entry for the 2007 Calendar contest.

What thinkest thee?

Life Immitates Seinfeld

I am punting on Part II of the Architectural Education Rant for the time being to bring you a more universally entertaining story. This happened last week, but after sharing it with some coworkers and seeing the sustained amusement it generated, I will document it here for posterity. There is no moral to this story; file under, "If you didn't laugh, you'd cry."

Did you know that every A.C. window unit has a filter that must be cleaned? I guess I knew that, but had probably sent the information to what I call the "long term storage" warehouse of my brain. I'm not so into A.C. in general, but since T.J. is one of those dudes who is always hot, I conceded to having two window units in the upper floor of our house. As far as I can tell, it never occurred to either of us to clean the filters at any point.

One day, we get home after the ladies had come. The "ladies" are the Portuguese ladies that come every two weeks and help us not to be disgusting in exchange for eighty dollars. They clean the surfaces in the bathroom and kitchen, sweep, vacuum, and that's about it. But it is always nice to come home and see the bathroom sink all clean and shiny.

So the ladies had come, and there's this note on the dining room table that says, "Todd: There is H20 all over the futon and desk upstairs from the A.C." (That's kind of funny in itself because when you talk to them in English or even Spanish, they have no idea what you're saying, but then they go ahead and write "H20" to mean water... go figure.)

We went upstairs and indeed, there was water all over my papers and the futon and the curtain and the floor. T.J. figured that the AC outlet where the condenser water drips out must be clogged, so he took the unit out and set about to cleaning the filter out in the bathroom. This took him at least 45 minutes, and resulted in a lot of wet and dirty towels on the floor. Also, the previously shiny sink was filthy and also clogged. Totally clogged with dirt and fuzz and crap.

But at least the filter was clean, so the Teej puts it back in the unit and then goes to put the unit back in the window. I saw him preparing to put it in, and it occurred to me to ask if he needed help, but my mind jumped back to a previous situation where I asked him if he needed help with the same task last year, and he said something like, "No, it's easier to do it myself." So I keep walking and go in the bedroom.

Momentarily I hear a very loud and very bad noise. Then silence. I peek into the office and there is T.J. and there is an open window and there is clearly no type of A.C. unit. He just kind of looks at me in acknowledgement of the fact that yes, the unit just fell out the window onto the brick pavers below.

Now, when I heard the bad noise, it actually didn't sound to me like an A.C. unit hitting bricks. It sounded more like a person jumping through a plate glass door. So doing some quick mental arithmetic, I come over and stick my head way out the open window and look down. I see lots of glass shards. There was nothing made of glass on the patio, so I go downstairs to confirm that the unit had smashed the kitchen window below on its way down.

Now's a good point in our story to take stock. We have:

- One futon soaked with water
- One desk and personal papers covered with water
- One ruined curtain
- One bathroom covered with dirty wet towels
- One newly cleaned bathroom sink, now filthy and clogged
- One smashed A.C. unit with a pointlessly clean filter
- Negative one operational A.C. unit in August
- Negative one functioning kitchen window
- One ghetto piece of plywood over smashed window
- Kitchen sink and patio full of glass
- One dented propane tank

The propane tank on the patio was struck by the falling window unit, and it would have been a much better tragicomedy if the tank had exploded and burned the whole house down, but alas. It didn't.

I think this is one of those stories that my dad in particular would like because he thinks Murphy's law only applies to him. Here we have a beautiful example of how efforts to offset entropy often result in greater entropy. For example, we were trying to cool the house to create a more civilized living environment, but the unit exploded water all over. Then, T.J. took great pains to clean the filter only to subsequently drop the unit out the window. Then, in trying to grab it by the cord, he wound up with cord-burn and the unit swung like a pendulum back towards the house, smashing the window when it would otherwise have fallen straight down.

I reiterate that there is no lesson to be learned here. I'm sure we will both continue to drop A.C. units out the literal and metaphorical windows of our lives. We are only in trouble when it ceases to be funny... right?

Aug 10, 2006

The Emergent Emergency

I was biking home thinking about how I would post a blog entry relating to the conversations I had today at work. There was the usual Genghis activity, and in fact he was in rare form PLUS he was actively irritated with me, so we both got under each other's skin very badly. But more interestingly, at the end of the day when I already had my keys and my bike helmet in my hand, I wound up having a long conversation with two coworkers (I'll call them Bob and Kristen) about the nature of architectural education and the clash in the academy between the study of Architecture and the concept of Historic Preservation. We discussed the arbitrariness of "schools of thought" as they change from era to era, and whether or not it was a pipe dream to think that graduate schools of design could ever really do more than pay lip service to interdisciplinary education between architecture, urban planning, preservation, the fine arts, landscape architecture, and the other fields that are supposedly allied arts.

We also vented frustrations at the experience of being a creative but essentially science-minded person in an architectural program. There is a lot of stuff that goes on, a whole language of elaborate bullshit, and a somewhat new concept I call the Pseudoscience of Design, or "graphing irrelevant data." Now that we live with computerized construction technology that aids us in building whatever wacky shapes we choose, design schools have become obsessed with justifying these choices using science or nature or philosophy or basically ANYTHING in the world other than simply beauty or personal taste of the designer or (gasp!) utility.

So, the word "emergence" has come into fashion. Emergence as a concept is not new, and you can read about it here and here and here and many other places. If you clicked on those "here"s, you'd probably be intrigued. But imagine what happens when schools of architecture latch on to such a term and start doing this and this and fucking this. (If you can get over all the popups, you'll eventually be rewarded with nonsense.) God, especially that last one. It KILLS me that MIT is buying this crap as well, but no "top" school of design is immune to the emergent virus.

Here, try this one. Now click on the "About_EmTech." Get it now? Of course not, but you did get to see some wireframe wontons.

The notion that we should study the forms that emerge from apparent chaos and try to find order in them is interesting. But then take architecture students who often come to a top-notch grad program at Columbia or Harvard with no undergrad design experience, and hand them a software package and tell them to design a fishery using the emergent properties of slime molds in Finland. Did you just ask me to design a fishery based on the way slime molds regenerate? Yes, you did.

What I am talking about here, for those who may not be following, is a mass delusion among the non-vocational (read intellectual/academic) design programs that we should program computers to design buildings for us. Not only that, but that these programs should generate the built form based on natural processes, like patterns of cellular growth or the movement of bees through a colony, which are of dubious relation to the structure being designed. Let me repeat - we are teaching students to program robots to design our environment. What is missing? I'll tell you what's missing: the freakin' human spirit, that's what's missing. Go to any architecture school and look around at the cloned blobs on the computer monitors, then grab some young impressionable first-years and try to save them by dragging them over to the Law School and forcing them to apply. Much less scary in there, methinks.

After coming home and having a glass of wine, I find myself uninterested in writing part II of this Scourge of Emergence diatribe. I am more interested in going downstairs to have another glass of wine. But the conversation with Bob and Kristen about trying to merge a love for old buildings and an interest in urban contexts with what the architectural academic community is passing off as science really riled me all up.

This experience with contemporary architectural education may have been what drove me to the field of Historic Preservation in the first place... the field is certainly stodgier, but the reward can be serious -- I get to play with buildings like the former Cincinnati Union Terminal (my current project, see below). Instead of wondering which ant colony's growth to graph in order to inform the design of my daycare center, I get to provide real solutions to adapting this building to its current use as a museum. Stay tuned for Diatribe Part Deux!

Aug 5, 2006

Cinéma Vérité

Sometimes words are not necessary.

I observed this scene today at the Hazel House, whereupon Carmen and I were inspired to make a film for you, our fans.

Aug 2, 2006


Both Carmen and Phoebe are internet movie stars!

This is so thrilling.

Next, we'll have to get Droo and the Family Kittens booked for some local venues. Dear "Droo's Person," have you any photos of the old man with his new kitten friends? At least Droo still has his friendster profile up, where he can read his testimonials and feel good about himself.

And now, for some more visuals!

I am Foreshortened Droo.

I am Elongated Phoebe.

We are Carmen & Phoebe, practicing our "stances."

The Stampede Scene.

This is where you can see that she looks just like her
mother, the fruit bat.

Wonder twin powers, activate! Form of yinyang!

Shape of Rectangle!

And finally, a gem from the archives: cult classic Mies Launch (2004).