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January 31, 2005

Some Drawings

I haven't fallen off the face of the earth, really. I've just been really busy. To tide you over, I offer some scans of my notebook this quarter, where I put all the assigned drawings and my notes or ideas from class discussions.


A fiber studio drawing. Partially done from a photograph.

Fiber Studio

Five views of my cardboard boat.

Cardboard Boat

A row of Italian Cypress along one wall of the Engineering Building where my studio is located.

Italian Cypress

The Architecture Building. Brutalist architecture at its most brutal. I used a ruler to get the perspective right.

Architecture Building

My knitting bag.

Knitting Basket

A recycling bin in the Horticulture Building. The reaction to this during review was, "wow, that's really green."

Recycling Bin

# Posted by ayse on 01/31/05 at 12:31 AM

January 22, 2005

I Laugh at Your Pool Tragedy

My boat made it across the pool and back just fine, actually. It was the only boat that suffered absolutely no damage from the trip. It was one of six that were still usable after the race. Yay, me. Of course, I totally lost, but I didn't come in dead last in my heat. Photos of me to come when my classmate who took them e-mails them to me. I look cute. Seriously.

Crappy cameraphone photos of the race below.


Here we have the pool. Nice, outdoor pool, lovely, warm, sunny day. Sorry you Northeasterners.

The pool before the race

The prize: The Cardboard Cup!

Cardboard Cup

This guy's boat floor just gave out on him.

The second heat: sploosh

This boat just folded in half.

Third heat: folded in half

The small "modified bathtub" boats made for a real race.

A real race

The surfboard boat just folded, too.


One of my classmates wins her heat!

Carla wins her heat

This pontoon actually made it across and won her heat, then was unable to race in the semifinals.

pontoon disaster

Um, yeah. Did not work very well, but made it across and back which was better than I expected.


Made it 10 feet and then sank in a flurry of wet cardboard.

outrigger disaster

This guy, who won the race overall, DUCT TAPED his paddles to his arms. Hope he shaved first. As predicted, pretty much the whole final race was strong guys.

Winner of the cup

# Posted by ayse on 01/22/05 at 7:19 PM

More Cardboard Boats

This is probably my last entry ever, as I prepare to meet my watery end tomorrow afternoon. So I figured it was a good time to show some boat pictures from our boat show this afternoon, and talk about matters of boat design.

(edited to add some more comments on boat design knowledge.)


First, a peek at the overall show. Lots of boats (three class of about 18 each are participating, after all). Most of them are pretty decent designs, and will get their paddlers across the pool twice, which is the requirement for the project. I'll show you some of the bad designs in a moment.

Boat Show Overview

Boat Show Overview #2

There's not a lot of room for new discoveries in boat design. We pretty much know what floats and what sinks, and what stays upright and what doesn't. There's refinement and tweaking, but I'm guessing just about nobody is going to come up with a new, innovative boat design that is not basically based on one of the many existing designs.

Working Boat Design

This is what works in a cardboard boat: a pointy end (to keep you going straight ahead), a wide flat bottom (to keep you stable), and sides that are high enough to keep the water out but low enough to allow you to paddle. Cardboard boats (within the parameters of this contest) are best paddled with a pair of hand paddles, rather than a canoe paddle or a kayak paddle, because they have very little underwater to keep the canoe pointed straight ahead, so the two hand paddles makes sure each stroke moves you forward, rather than turning you.

I've purchased two ping-pong paddles for this purpose.

So, on to my bets for disasters tomorrow. First up, the Barrel:


I do not know what this guy was thinking. Not only is this never going to stay upright, but he didn't put any reinforcement on the bottom, so he's going right through. I wish he were in my heat so I could flail helplessly unnoticed.

Then we have people who simply do not understand weight distribution over water:

Pointy Ends

There's a very simple principle in physics which says that the total buoyant force is equal to the weight of the water displaced by the object. This buoyant force is distributed evenly across the area of the object. If you place a point load in the center of a beam that is evenly loaded in opposition to that load, you get bending at the ends. So you either want to have pretty much all of the displacement of your boat right where the weight of your body is (as in a corracle), or you need to stiffen the boat along its length so it resists that bending (as in a canoe or kayak) or you want to place all of your weight at one end (can't think of the name of an example).

Otherwise the boat bends in half when you get into it and water pours in.


One of the design requirements of this project was that we can't get our feet wet. I'm guessing, based on this design, that this person is going to get more than just his feet wet.


A cubic foot of water weighs a little under 62 and a half pounds. So a 150 pound human (as I'm guessing the guy who made this is) needs around two and a half cubic feet of boat at a bare minimum to displace enough water to stay afloat, without taking into account things like splashing or wobbling. I don't really see that much boat here. Not after those pontoons fall off, which they will do instantly.

We're now working our way into pontoon boat territory. We watched a couple old videos of this contest from previous years, and in those videos, pontoon boats went down over and over, breaking in half because of the unbalanced loading I mentioned earlier. This boat's flimsy outriggers fall into the same "failed to learn much in physics" category. When they break off from the force of the water pushing up on them, there will be two large holes in each side of the boat for water to get into the cardboard. And the boat doesn't look very strong, either. There's nothing to keep the sides out when the water is pushing in on them.

(One of the challenges in boatbuilding is that the forces that act on the boat when you're working on it are the opposite of the forces that act on the boat when it's being used.)

Flimsy Outriggers

Here's our first pontoon. And I know something you don't know: she didn't reinforce those pontoons at all, because she ran out of material. Now, the boat may still stay together in the pool, but she's got to turn it around at the other end. This design works really well for going straight ahead (assuming watertightness, natch), but not so good for turning. That's because any large plane under the water will resist turning in that direction. Large ocean-going boats are made very linear so they tend to just go straight ahead without stopping. We've got to go 25 meters. Having a boat that doesn't want to turn at all is a major liability.

Pontoon #1

The merit of a pontoon boat is entirely in what holds the two pontoons together. This boat is bending the wrong way to resist water pushing up on it effectively.

Pontoon #15

Oh, heavens.

Pontoon #17

I love this boat. Take a pontoon boat, and make it better by... making the pontoons open? Are you crazy? Water gets into those things and the boat just falls apart. Not to mention that this is some of the sloppiest boatmaking I've ever seen.

Pontoon #28

I'm pretty sure this boat is not going to behave like its builder thinks it will. For one thing, it looks really wobbly to me, which is exactly not what you want from a pontoon boat. In general, in boat design you want to get as much of your weight under the water as possible. This is why most boats have pointed bottoms or even heavy weights on the bottom. It keeps you from overturning. Anything that approximates a log will behave like that old county fair log-rolling contest, which means dunk-o-rama.

Pontoon #40

A twofer. We have a weird, ungainly pontoon boat (how the heck are you going to hold onto that thing while paddling? and a flimsy boat with flimsy bits sticking out of it. I'll wait and see on the boat; it could work. But that pontoon boat is going nowhere.

Pontoon #43 plus 42

Well, off to bed. Tomorrow's a busy day: writing test in the morning, boat race in the afternoon, possible quick trip up to the Bay Area in the evening (which would be much easier if I have shed this earthly body, although that would make it harder for me to bring Noel that book on construction detailing I promised him).

# Posted by ayse on 01/22/05 at 12:05 AM

January 18, 2005

Racing a Cardboard Boat Against Time

Last week was a frenzy of cardboard boat construction, which mostly involved tedious measuring of regular triangles and folding. Lots of wetting of paper tape, too. As a preview of the race on Saturday, I offer you this photo essay on boatmaking.


Let's begin with a view down what we call "The Boatyard" -- my studio -- from my desk. It is Monday night, January 10, around 9pm. There are about seven of us there; I stopped in for an hour to do some taping.

The boatyard

I sit at a table with three other people: Joe, George, and Carla. Joe and George were there, working, in between bouts of talking trash to one another about their relative performance in the race. That's my desk right in front, all messy and chaotic.

A little chaos

One of the complications with cardboard boats is designing a way to make the cardboard more rigid, so it resists the large pressures put on it by the water. This is one system, which fails to stand up to the triangulation requirements of good structural engineering.

One support system

Most of the boats end up being a sort of canoe shape, which is pretty straightforward. My boat originally had a pointy end, but I was talked out of it by my teacher.

Canoe shape

Some of my classmates chose to make a pontoon boat. We watched a video of previous cardboard boat races, and the pontoon boats all went down. Why this inspired them to make one, I do not know.

Pontoon boat

The basic rowboat shape is very popular, and I think will do well. I expect that this race will mostly be a rowing race, which makes me unenthusiastic. I have no chance of winning a rowing race.

Rowboat shapes

The guy who made this boat made a full-sized mockup, test-ran it in Laguna Lake, and then finished his boat in a few days. He spent last week bored to death.


Now we see my own sad little boat, Number 6. It's a "modified bathtub" boat, which is very stable and relatively speedy. I expect to make it from one side to the other, but not terribly fast. I only hope one of those pontoon boats is in my heat, so people are busy watching somebody else flail and then sink.

My boat

The bottom of my boat is braced with triangles, and then I'll kneel on a cardboard plank on top of the triangles. It's a wide boat, so when the water pushes the sides in I'll still have plenty of width and stability. Or that's the theory.

Last resting place

I'm less enthusiastic about this than I could be, but more than I probably would be about building cardboard chairs (which they're doing in some other studios). At least my practise class doesn't have to do a set of working drawings for the boat, as the other section does.

Anyway, Sinsheimer Pool, San Luis Obispo, Saturday, January 22 from 1:30-3:30. I'm in the first heat, and I expect that's the only heat I'll be in.

# Posted by ayse on 01/18/05 at 9:06 PM

January 13, 2005

A Present for Myself

I've been wanting a little bag to carry my knitting or crocheting around in. Nothing huge, just a small bag that can hold a few balls of yarn and the project itself, so I can carry my knitting on the bus or wherever I want without it getting all tangled up in my backpack. But sheesh, every bag I saw was either monstrously large (large enough to carry several major projects) or made out of something I did not care for (toile, denim, or faux-tapestry were the common offenders). So I decided to make one, because what's the good of being all handy and stuff if you never use it?


I chose two funky fabrics: a blue with orange goldfish for the liner, and a bright orange "batik" (the proper batik dyeing, but mysteriously no actual batik work on it). It took me a while to find the right handles, but when I did they were on massive sale, so I was happy.

I won't bore you with endless details of construction and so on. It was a lined bag with two fake bamboo handles. Here it is (with apologies for the crappy image quality):

Bag exterior

Bag lining

Bag filled

I'm quite happy with how it turned out.

# Posted by ayse on 01/13/05 at 12:47 AM

January 12, 2005

Not Old Enough

I had an odd conversation at the bookstore today, as I was checking out. The cashier pointed to my left hand and said, "For a moment I thought you were wearing a wedding ring."

"I am wearing a wedding ring," I said.

"You're not old enough to be married."

"I'm probably older than you think."

"You're probably about 25. I'm a good judge of ages. I can always guess somebody's age."

"You didn't guess mine."

At this point I had to show her my ID anyway, so I pointed out my birthdate. She then accused me of having a fake ID, which is sort of an odd thing to say, because clearly I was not attempting to hide my age or anything like that, but I guess she was embarrassed by being so incredibly wrong about how old I must be.

I wonder if she will say that she can always guess somebody's age to anybody else. My guess is that she will, because irritating people never realize how irritating they are.

# Posted by ayse on 01/12/05 at 8:26 PM

January 10, 2005

More on School

So the cardboard boat building continues, with minor interruptions for purchase of items like twine and a very long ruler (I can use just about any size of metal ruler, if you're casting about for somebody to take some of them off your hands, by the way, not that anybody ever is). Actually, the ruler has not yet been purchased because the fricking-fracking hardware store closed at 6pm which indicates that nobody who shops there has a regular job.

Anyway. I figured to show some more photos. Just to keep you all coming back for more excitement.


Here we have my lovely studio space. Notice the abundance of both natural light and SPACE for all my STUFF. I am very happy about my location, and especially about being up near a wall where I can pile my supplies like ill-gotten gains. Joe has the desk next to the window. We were in studio together last quarter (everybody in the quad of desks there was in the same studio last quarter, in fact).

Studio Space

Here's one of my many study models for the boat race. This is almost what I'm building. But the final plan is a secret, in my plot for total race domination. Actually, I'm praying for torrential rains and high winds such as to make a boat race outdoors impossible. Weather deity, you know I'm talking to YOU.

Boat Model

If the weather is not hazardous, the race will be underway between 1:30 and 3:30 on January 22 at the City Swim Center in Sinsheimmer Park. Come watch my final moments on this earth.

# Posted by ayse on 01/10/05 at 10:10 PM

January 7, 2005

Writing Test

As it turns out, I can take my writing test before I go to a watery grave in a cardboard boat (in an outdoor pool, rain or shine), so I was reading over some of the information on the test. It's a 500-word essay on some topic, for which you have two and a half hours.

Nothing makes you feel smarter than having the California State University system tell you that in order to graduate (or, in my case, in order to change status to graduate student), you must pass a (two and a half hour) (500 word) writing test where the following might be helpful:

The Writing Lab also offers a selection of helpful handouts on essay writing in general, on organizing paragraphs, on making paragraphs specific, on how to develop ideas rather than repeat them, on writing summaries, and a handout particularly designed to help students write under pressure.

Except possibly this passage:

If you want to brush up on grammar, punctuation, usage, or essay organization, the University Writing Lab Website has links to several helpful online resources. Some of these sites offer interactive tutorials and powerpoint presentations to help you review the basics of essay writing.

OK, I'll give you that for whatever reason, California taxpayers decided it was a bad idea to actually educate our children unless their parents are rich enough to send them to private school. But there's something wrong with needing to teach punctuation to college juniors, ya know?

(Before the e-mail starts, note that this test is used to get around taking a composition class (because you want to take other classes for most students, or because you would die of boredom in my case); foreign students don't have a choice about taking English composition, so it's not as if the people taking this test are not, in theory, fluent speakers of English.)

As I was writing this, it occurred to me to be grateful for one thing more in my life: I don't have to grade those tests.

# Posted by ayse on 01/07/05 at 7:26 PM

January 6, 2005

A Pair of Projects

This quarter is unlike last quarter in that we have huge amounts of work to do in studio. This is good and it is super busy-making. I do feel like I'm getting more real portfolio work in this quarter, but also I feel a little overwhelmed and rushed. Between long hours in studio and trying to get the dog enough exercise, I always seem to be running late for something.

Anyway, projects.


One of our projects this week was a short one: get a plant, and make a container for it that says something about something you learned last quarter. I decided to crochet my holder, because I learned to crochet last quarter, and because it would work well with the plant I got, which was a little pink African violet.

I spent maybe 7 hours on this project, of which one hour was spent trying to figure out how to edge it (I knew what look I wanted, but needed to figure out how to make it happen). I have a lot of the green yarn (Red Heart "Hokey Pokey" in Lime) left over, so maybe I'll make another little basket or holder thing out of it.

Anyway, photos.

Without the plant:
Plant Container

With the plant:
Plant Container Filled

I'm feeling pretty good about this. It may not be as perfect as what other people make, but it's something that makes me happy to look at it, at least until I kill that poor violet through neglect.

Our other project is to build a cardboard boat, which we will race across a pool. If any of your readers want to watch me sink to my watery death surrounded by a bunch of waterlogged cardboard, the race is January 22 in San Luis Obispo, which coincidentally is the day when I wanted to be taking a test to get out of having to take a writing class before I graduate.

Anyway, photos.

Carla sits across from me in the studio. She and I had low blood sugar and had been making and tearing apart little mockup boats (one of which, filled with scraps of cardboard, is in front of me in this photo). Now she feels like her boat mockup is done, and I, well, I don't. (But I have four hours tomorrow morning to work on it.)

Here's the shell of my boat, which is going to be modified to have a fin on the bottom, as soon as I get around to figuring out how to fold it.
Boat Mockup

And some drawings, and little bits of trying different folding patterns out to make something like the bottom of a boat.

# Posted by ayse on 01/06/05 at 10:03 PM

Strange Things

I've just unearthed a small collection of phonecam photos of weird stuff around school and home. Check them out.


Let's start this off easy-like. Downtown in San Luis Obispo, we find the Bladerunner Day Spa. I don't know about you, but the idea of anything like the world of Bladerunner doesn't exactly inspire calmness and rejuvenation.


This is on a building on the CalPoly campus. Apparently, no people are allowed in the Student Union. And only a subset of dogs.

Dogs Only

In the elevator of my doctor's office in Alameda. The bottom buttons say "UP" and "DOWN" -- nothing more specific. I have never pressed them. I wonder if it's some sort of lottery for floors, and you get one of the ones either above you or below you.

Up Down

# Posted by ayse on 01/06/05 at 9:49 PM

January 5, 2005


Tonight Rosie and I walked almost all the way up the hill, and it was late and I was thinking it was getting on doggie dinner time, and I said, "Let's go home."

Rosie said, "No, let's walk the rest of the way up the hill and see what's there."

And I said, "But we know it's going to be more of the same."

"But let's just see what's up there. Let's go all the way up. Let's go all the way up and then go on still more, until we're tired and fall asleep, then we wake up and go some more."

So we walked all the way to the top and sniffed every bush in the cul de sac, and then we turned around and walked back home for dinner.

And I thought that in many ways, Rosie is a better architecture student than I am.

# Posted by ayse on 01/05/05 at 7:36 PM

January 4, 2005

How School is Going

I got e-mail from a friend today that started out, "So, how's school going?"

I just finished my second day of classes. I'm not entirely sure how school is going, to be honest, but I can give you my impressions of my classes so far.


My first class of the week is structural engineering, 8am Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I imagine it will be the same class as last quarter, only more in depth. We're starting on curves this quarter. I chose to have the same teacher, who I liked quite a bit. For unknown reasons, this class is being held in a (well at least) roomy classroom in the phys ed complex. I walk to class past posters warning me not to bet on my college football team. Sure thing, coach.

Then I have this huge break from 9am until noon. Last quarter I made my classes butt up against each other because it made my days shorter. Unfortunately, it meant that I was regularly running across campus trying to make it to the next class in ten minutes, or fewer because we went over.

At noon I have Construction Accounting. Looks promising, although, well, it's accounting. And it turns out that because most students don't take the prerequisite accounting class, they spend a lot of time teaching that. On the other hand, I'm excited to learn more about good business practises for building companies. I might want to have my own design/build firm someday, so this will be valuable, if only to tell me when I need to hire a professional accountant. Construction Management students assessed themselves a fee and used some of it to buy some comfortable chairs for their classrooms, so this is my most posh and luxurious classroom experience.

Immediately after accounting (but directly upstairs in the same building!) I have five hours of design studio. This is the class that will be sucking up most of my time this quarter, I suspect. For one thing, it's two studios combined and team-taught, so two teachers give you conflicting feedback all the time. For another, we are hitting the ground running with two projects: making a container for a plant (small) and making a cardboard boat for a cardboard boat race in three weeks (large). I have some preliminary designs for my boat, but let me tell you I wish I were in the studio that's doing the cardboard chair. Not excited about the boat, that's all.

I do like the teachers, though. And the studio space is much nicer than last quarter: I have a table near a wall and an electrical outlet, and there's a lot of natural light, and a view onto the Dexter Lawn, and good cell coverage so I don't have to stand outside to talk to Noel.

Anyway, back to classes.

Tuesday morning starts off bright and early at 8am with the materials of construction lab, which is basically playing with power tools in the Support Shop for one morning a week. After I've taken this lab, I can use the Support Shop as much as I want. I already have some ideas for using the tools there.

Right after that, but not too far away, I have a lecture for my Professional Practise class. This is where we spend all quarter learning how to make a set of construction documents, which as basically an architect's contract. Looks to be a bit of a snoozer in some respects, although I'm looking forward to refining my hand drafting skills (not that I'll ever need them outside of school, of course). I get an hour break for lunch, then the studio portion of the class meets in my studio (again, not far away) for two hours.

I'm taking one general education class this quarter. I have to take three in residence, so I want to spread them out. This quarter it's American Government, Tuesday and Thursday from 4 to 6. We'll be doing the boring yadda yadda on the structure of the government, but also focussing on the issue of domestic violence and how it is addressed by the government on many levels (criminal, legislative, judicial, and so forth). I was expecting to be bored initially, but now I think I will enjoy the class.

The best part of my week is Thursday, when class doesn't start until noon (my Construction Accounting class is mysteriously scheduled to meet Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday). Tuesday is by far the worst day, because all of my one-day-only classes meet then, so things get really backed up. But every day has a reasonable break for lunch, and most days have a break long enough for me to get to the post office on the bus, or run other short errands downtown. I think this is better than last quarter, when I never really had enough time to do anything major between classes.

# Posted by ayse on 01/04/05 at 7:51 PM

January 3, 2005

Barking Dog Concert

The neighbor's dog has been barking again tonight, and so Rosie and I took a little walk and found the address of the house where it's penned up. I'm mailing them this letter tomorrow:


Thank you ever so much for leaving your dog outside to bark at night. Nothing is quite as home-like as the constant bark-bark-bark of a dog slowly going insane by being separated from its pack, don't you think?

Sometimes I lie in bed and listen to your dog bark for HOURS, secure in the knowledge that you would never do anything so inconsiderate as take it inside, where it would not bark and bring music into my life. The best nights are when it's really cold out, and I know the dog is cold and of course a caring, loving owner would have brought it inside, and yet you make the supreme sacrifice and leave it outside to serenade us for two, three, often even four hours.

I hope you leave your dog outside all the time from now on. Even better: why not just let it out to run around on the street? But you must be concerned that somebody who is not as dedicated as you to the evening concerts would take the dog inside and make it stop barking, which would be such a terrible loss to the neighborhood. Your devotion to the arts is commendable. Would that we all were as self-sacrificing, generous, and considerate as you.

Your Neighbor.

I'm in a really bitchy mood, but for god's sake it's not even as if they're not home -- I could see them sitting in there watching TV and just letting that poor dog bark at them through the back door. I wish they could get the dog taken away for treating it like that.

# Posted by ayse on 01/03/05 at 10:43 PM