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September 2005

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October 26, 2005

Midterm Week

This is the sixth week of the term, and today marked the halfway point to the end of studio, so we had a midterm crit. This means we set up our desks with what we have been working on, and our teacher invites local architects and other teachers to come in and critique our work. For the last few weeks we've been designing a visitor's center and hostel to go at the base of one of the local "mountains" (more of a hill, really).

Here's my desk, waiting to be attacked:

Desk setup

I was pretty nervous about this crit. Not because I didn't have enough work done, but because for some reason I can work on a project for a week and get pretty far along, and then the teacher will tell me to step backwards and go through my generative process so he can see it. When you've been designing stuff for more than a few years, it's really hard to walk through that process, kind of like trying to explain to somebody how your tongue works when you're saying the letter "f." So designing in school has been a lot of painful, excruciatingly slow exercises in explaining how I do things I tend to do without thinking about consciously.

As it was, I got only one piece of really useful criticism, which was that the first architect who looked at my work thought the wall arrangement was too inflexible for a hostel. In between that crit and the next visitor, I redrew the floorplan and fixed that problem and one other one I'd been puzzling over.

But everybody liked how I used tracing paper overlays to show the layers of process in my work. Big hit with the local architect crowd.

Here's another shot of the overlay thing. Just a site plan on the table, then a layer of trace for each step in the process (it took me forever to work out what needed to be there so there weren't any huge jumps in the flow).


And a couple of plans sketched out with rough dimensions in my sketchbook. In the next week I will be putting these into AutoCAD on a site plan scan, so I can see relative sizes and relationship to the trees.

Sketchbook floorplan

Oddly, I know what the floorplans are like, but I have no idea what the buildings want to be yet. I'm thinking of drawing on the Paris Metro station entries -- those lovely Art Nouveau insectlike glass and iron structures -- for inspiration.

Sketchbook floorplan 2

The rest of midterms have been OK. I got a good grade in construction finance that I didn't really deserve, but I'll take it. I have an engineering test tomorrow. We had a test in practise that hasn't been graded yet but was on a subject I know well (comparing the London 1851 Exposition to the Paris 1889 Exposition). And I register for next quarter on Tuesday.

# Posted by ayse on 10/26/05 at 9:22 PM | Comments (0)

October 20, 2005

Knotting Problems

I've spent a portion of the last couple evenings working on this crocheted square -- the pattern says it should come out at 6-7", and that looks to be about right from what I have left to do: this is 5" across:


It's interesting to do this because it's all working in circles, which knitting is very much not (at least garment knitting for flat patterns, which is what I am used to), and also because I have reached a point in the pattern where what I need to do is utterly unintelligible to me, even with my fine references and a couple decent pictures of the square finished. I know I'm just making the transition from circular to square-shaped, but wow, it is terribly confusing, as if the pattern just sort of exploded all over the place. It's tempting to sort of drop it and start another one, planning to figure it out when I have enough started squares for a blanket.

I will eventually just sit down and puzzle it over for a day and then try some things and see if they look right, but I do wish that sometimes, pattern writers would stop trying to be so very brief and just say what they want you to do.

# Posted by ayse on 10/20/05 at 8:46 PM | Comments (0)

October 19, 2005


I have a regular iPod, on which I keep all my music (and radio shows I've downloaded as podcasts -- kind of like Tivo for the radio, except I listen to a lot of stuff from Australia that's just not available here), so forth. I also have an iPod Shuffle, which I use for listening to a smaller number of things while walking around campus or when carry the full iPod is unwieldy. I use half the Shuffle as a flash drive for large files for school: right now it's loaded with CAD files for a project I'm working on.

Usually I leave the regular iPod attached to the laptop docking station at home, where it feeds into a pair of speakers so I have a little stereo. I used to have it disconnected, but I like having the flexibility to listen to things I have on the laptop or things on the iPod without having to move the cable from the speakers around all the time.

Here's the kicker: If I want to move files on and off the Shuffle, I have to remove the regular iPod from my system, because for whatever reason the Mac won't allow both to be connected at the same time. Which means that instead of being able to plug in the Shuffle and quickly add a few files or move stuff around, I have to go through this detach-attach-detach-reattach rigamarole with the two peripherals.

I have to do this because lots of people are afraid that I will copy music from one device to another, whether that is totally legal or not. I don't copy music: I have all the music I need (in fact, I'm not likely to buy much more because I'm sick of being treated like a criminal because I want to use the music in a completely legal way the seller didn't anticipate). What I copy are my own CAD files, which I own completely, or podcasted radio shows, which is pretty much the point of podccasting.

I'm not very happy with how the Shuffle works in that way: it's nice to have a small MP3 player to carry with me, especially one that is also a flash drive for school work. But being reminded every time I want to connect it to my laptop that Apple assumes I have criminal intent is kind of irritating. The major problem is that everybody assumes I'm a criminal when it comes to MP3s (for the record, my MP3s are legitimate backup copies of CDs I own; I don't have any music I didn't pay for or have given to me by the rights holders). So no matter what other system I buy, I'm going to run into this problem.

In many ways, I miss the days when nobody knew what the internet was.

# Posted by ayse on 10/19/05 at 10:10 AM | Comments (0)

October 16, 2005

What Shrub is This?

There are these bushes growing alongside the Rotunda lecture hall at school. A scent that is like orange blossoms on speed: tropical, citrusy, sweet. Amazing. And little red fruits that look like plums but narrower and with points (and, well, on the bush in October while the thing is also blooming). For a long time I thought they were some sort of mock orange hybrid, but they do not match any mock orange in any book I have or online. Anybody have any ideas?

Mystery shrub

# Posted by ayse on 10/16/05 at 4:10 PM | Comments (4)

October 11, 2005

Growing Baby Plants

I had just about reached the end of my patience with the flat of amaryllis seeds I planted a couple of weeks ago (yes, I know it was only like two weeks and I was being overly impatient). Some of the seeds had very visibly rotted over the weekend, so I was looking at the flat thinking it might be time to throw the whole thing away when I noticed this:

Baby amaryllis

That's a tiny little sprout. And a few other seeds are sprouting, as well, though they are not as visible. Hooray for the baby amaryllis belladonna!

In other planty news, I'm conducting an experiment in fern cultivation. Every piece of advice I've ever read on the subject talks about sterilizing the soil before sowing fern spores. But the advice they give for sterilizing it wouldn't actually do much to make things sterile (they advise that you pour boiling water over the soil, rather than steaming it in a steam box the way they do in greenhouses).

My theory is that this is a ritual rather than a requirement, and people keep repeating it because they've been told it. It makes sense to me because in the wild, ferns propagate by spores by just dropping them and letting them have at it, and certainly nobody is sterilizing the soil for them there. The survival rate is lower than you might want in a greenhouse situation, but part of that is other factors like competition, which I will be handling with transplanting and feeding.

So I'm testing my theory by taking some ripe fern fronds from the fern on my studio desk (a California Five-Fingered Fern) and laying them in a moist bed of potting soil, covered by a plastic cover (I bought a brownie pan that came with a plastic lid for the purpose). Note that I've also skipped the step of collecting the spores separately, because it skips a step, and that's good for the impatient gardener. So far, there has been no action in the tray, but it has not been very long, and I am told it can take up to five or six weeks until visible results appear. It is my hope to have far too many ferns to deal with by Christmas.

We'll see how that goes.

# Posted by ayse on 10/11/05 at 10:46 PM | Comments (2)

October 4, 2005

First Quarter Class Roundup

So, yeah, school. I'm kind of light this quarter, with only my studio, a few support classes, and construction finance. I'm doing yet more baby engineering for non-engineers: small scale structures this quarter, then large-scale next, then I'm done with the engineering sequence. It's a mere sixteen credits all together this quarter, which feels like basically nothing, although my finance teacher certainly gives us enough homework to keep me working on the stuff just about non-stop.

This year in studio we're supposed to learn more about the site: analyzing it, designing with it in mind. So with that in mind, on Monday we had a field trip.

The idea is, we get a site, analyze it to death, then our teacher gives us a program, and then we design a building to fit the site that meets the program. This is our site, a trailhead next to a freeway offramp.


There is, as they say, lots of topography on the site. Which is slangy archi-speak for "the ground is very uneven."


One of the things I hate the most about these projects is that they give you this site with gorgeous, dappled shade, lots of nature all over it, and then a program that requires that you raze half the landscape. I have high hopes that our project is going to be residential, so the space can be a bit quirkier.

Dappled shade

Before we split up into groups and worked on analysis, we hiked up and looked down on the site from the hill.


The view is quite nice up there. San Luis Obispo limits building above a certain level from the valley floor, and they own most of the land around the bases of the hills, so there's a large open space around the city.


It was also very windy up there. It's almost winter, amazingly enough.

On the hilltop

# Posted by ayse on 10/04/05 at 7:44 PM | Comments (0)

October 3, 2005

College Life

The Cal Poly "Greeks" -- frats and sororities -- are all upset this week because Housing distributed a pamphlet to dorm residents that gives national figures for rape among Greeks, and it is not flattering. (What a surprise!)

Rather than make a real effort to a) get actual statistics on Greek-related rapes on Cal Poly's campus, and b) make a real effort to stop the crimes caused by excessive drinking and drug use that are endemic in the system, they got all huffy in the campus paper about how those statistics are stereotyping and cause prejudgement. Because, you know, warning freshman girls that they might be preyed upon by frat boys is somehow oppressing the frat boys. God forbid we should try to help women avoid situations where they are in more danger than they expected.

Who's surprised that there are more rapes as a result of frat parties than other types? Nobody, because that's what happens there. Who's surprised that you don't see many upper classwomen at frat parties, and if you do, they're not drinking much? Nobody, because the older a college woman gets, the more savvy she gets about avoiding situations where she might be preyed upon.

Now, that is a problem the system can solve. By changing the tenor of their parties, by changing the culture of fraternity life from a rehash of Animal House to a real community-oriented club. But they do not care to, and so they will be judged by their actions as a whole.

The president of the campus Greek Council can protest all he wants, but the fact is that Housing had actual facts about the situation, and all the council can come up with is a sort of mock-victimization, as if suddenly it's the frats and not the women who get raped that are the real victims. As far as I can tell, the only argument they have is that the numbers might be different for Cal Poly, although they have no statistics to offer. Forgive me if I find their argument considerably less compelling.

# Posted by ayse on 10/03/05 at 9:58 PM | Comments (0)

October 1, 2005

Beach Visit

Today we took Goldie to the beach for the first time. It was a terrific day to be at the beach: the weather was hot and clear inland, and the fog was pushing its way in across the ocean. So we had this warm still air at the beach, with a slight overcast that made it not too hot for running like mad, and not too sunny for good photos.

Perfect weather

The girls sit very nicely in the back seat together. Especially when they are going somewhere obviously fun, like the beach.

Back seat doggies

Me and the girls at the beach. I was a bit overly warm, hence my bright pink colour.

Girls at the beach

Goldie very quickly picked up on the basics of beach fun, like sniffing stuff that washed up on the shore.

Doggie fun

And, of course, dipping into the water then shaking yourself off right next to your people.


The beach atmosphere made Goldie more playful than she has been since she came to stay with us. She and Rosie ran and tumbled and chased birds...

Runnin and playin

And drank sea water in copious amounts (that's Rosie lying in the surf behind Goldie).

Drinking salt water

It's been terribly hot here the last few days, and the opportunity to cool off in the water was very welcome.


We used the visit to work on long-distance recall ("come here!") and walking together ("come on!"); Goldie did a very good job at both.

Hi, Goldie

Mostly, though, she ran back and forth in the water. And mostly Rosie lay in the water and sighed with relief. Heavy black fur really sucks in 100F weather.


The happy kiddos.

Wet dogs

The tide was pretty far out this time, so we also explored some of the tide pools and rocks that are usually submerged. This one had lots of anemones on it, plus other encrusted sea thingies.

Tide pool 1


There was one huge starfish on this rock; we could not tell if it was alive or dead.


More anemones

Goldie really enjoyed exploring the rocks. I think they must smell very interesting to a dog.

Goldie checks out the tidal rocks

Rosie, of course, is an old hand at tide-pool exploration.

Rosie the explorer

Then the tide was coming in and we'd walked as far as we usually walk, so we headed back.

Tide coming in

On the drive home, the girls were zonked out almost immediately. Goldie was even snoring back there.


They didn't really wake up until we got back into San Luis Obispo, and even then they book looked groggy and rumpled.

Are we home yet?

# Posted by ayse on 10/01/05 at 8:25 PM | Comments (1)