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Inevitability...

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As an architect, sometimes
the membrane separating my “inside” reality from my “outside” reality gets dangerously thin. Especially when talking with other “like minded” architects, or architecture students. When this happens, sometimes my tendency to free-associate runs amok, confusing the hell out of those around me (because, of course, they’re only getting half of the conversation that is taking place in my mind). Why this happens I don’t know - I don’t really care (even though I have to laugh at myself for it).


I recently had a (totally NOT contrived) conversation with a first year architecture student who was waxing philosophic over the nature of architecture as she perceived it.



Me: In response to her initial statement, smiling wryly, "...It’s inevitable. Every architect/designer eventually grapples with pin-boards, and thumbtacks."

Arch student: *confused and somewhat frightened look* - ?!?

Me: "It’s an allegory for any of the many “dualities” of architecture. Such as it’s free-constrained, space-place, art-science, or tabula rasa-palimpsest duality."

Arch student: *slightly less confused look* - ooookaaaay.



That student is skeptical and believes the madness not contagious. But I remember when I was in her shoes and I know now that (in fact) it is. Once one learns how to fabricate reality on command, one’s “inside” universe becomes one’s “outside” universe.


It's inevitable...


The roster of #letsblogoff posts below will link you to more confusing "free-associations". Go read their stuff too.
Don’t forget to leave a comment.

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Keepin' it real, yo...

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For this architect, the summer’s been crazy. It began with an actual project, and it will end without one. I can’t say I’m surprised - I had a gut feeling about it. The project (a residential tower) ramped up from zero to full burn in the span of four days and cast it’s intense heat into the universe for eight weeks. Alas the intensity was unsustainable. The owner faltered pulling the plug just last week. It was like a great big hug of hurt, but without the actual fire.


I had another gut feeling the other day which resulted in me going “all in” on a raffle for a set of golf clubs (and by all in I mean I bought thirty tickets and put ‘em all in the ticket box for the clubs). I won. Sweet.

My guts have yet to steer me wrong. But even so, I accept and accommodate uncertainty. To illustrate, when by-standers might say I’m careening through one situation or another, I’d say I’m calculating the instant - following the trace of some uncertain trajectory.

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I read, and re-read Borges’ stories frequently. I like them immensely because they un-answer my questions, un-question my answers, and resist reducing reality into a “certain” and tidy little package. Specifically his stories “The Immortal” and “The House of Asterion”, come to mind whenever I try to explain what I mean by the phrase “uncertain trajectory” (which, incidentally, gets a lot of eye-rolls whenever I use it).

While saying this risks your ocular gymnastics: I follow an uncertain trajectory through my own
vast territory of madness. My guts tell me when, where, and which way to turn. Borges, and some others help me explain why and how.

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My list of best books (for those of you who are adventurous and curious) are:

“Skin” by Kathe Koja
“Amnesia” by Douglas Cooper
“Delerium” by Douglas Cooper
“Collected Fictions” by Jorge Luis Borges
“From the Teeth of Angels” by Jonathan Carroll


There’s a roster of #letsblogoff posts below that lists other participants. Go read their stuff too.
Don’t forget to leave a comment.

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I've had some freaky ideas, but...

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Recently, I said something which lodged an idea in my brain where it’s been stuck. It was half-baked idea at the time (maybe it still is). I was distracted; it was something about doing the same thing over and over, finding different results. Summer may bring
skin, firepower, and trips to the Shedd, but it also brings a glut of resumés and portfolios from a fresh crop of architecture graduates seeking employment.



Undoubtedly the outlook for this years architecture grads is bleak, unless they’re down with working for no pay experience only. Even though I’m not hiring I do peruse the portfolios (good or bad) that I’m sent, and every time I’m transported back to all the crazy shit I did in studio. Ah, those were the days...



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Scary, I know.


Y: What the hell is that thing!?

M: I got that a lot in studio. In fact, I still do.

Anyway, Isn’t it obviously an inked freehand perspective? Beyond that it’s clearly diagrammed and annotated. Yes I was serious when I presented it. It all started when I read Lebbeus Woods' words, and looked at the
images he was producing. They got into my head. I tried to resist (not really he had me at "geo- magnetic lift"). I rarely see a portfolio anymore using a tool as analog as a technical pen, or pencil for that matter.



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Pure madness


Y: An actual physical study model, using basswood!?

M: I know, right?

Y: What’s it supposed to be?

M: If you knew you’d likely have me committed It’s a “virtual space” - that’s all you get.

And this is only two of many such projects. I’m only slightly embarrassed now. No matter, maybe I’ll put more up later. We can make fun of them on twitter. In the mean time I’ve got to change locations. The nice young men in the clean white suits are on their way.

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Where do you get your ideas?

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Forever thirsty, I dream (unbearably) of a small and orderly labyrinth at whose center lay a well; my hands can almost touch it, my eyes can see it, but so bewildering and entangled are the turns that I know I’ll die before I reach it.


The well is an infinite, incomprehensible library; a vast territory of madness, so very vast, so very mad. This is where I get my ideas. The library is unlimited, but periodic. If a traveler were to journey an infinite distance, in any direction, for an infinite duration they would find that the same volumes are repeated in the same disorder - which repeated, is order.

Like the philosopher, I believe nothing can be communicated by the art of writing. I’ve never grasped for long the difference between one character and another. Besides, no one cares about facts anymore. They’re mere points of departure for speculation and exercises in creativity. It’s not the reading that matters, but the rereading.

I avoid pointless precision; neither that which has been nor that which is to be holds any interest for me. For this I know that I’m accused of arrogance, and perhaps of misanthropy, and perhaps even of madness. These accusations (which I shall punish in due time) are ludicrous. It’s true that I never leave my house, but it is also true that it’s doors (whose number is infinite) stand open night and day to all. Anyone who wishes to enter may do so. Here no splendors, no ostentation shall be found, but only calm and solitude.

There is no new thing upon the earth. All knowledge is but remembrance; all novelty is but oblivion.

This entire post is assembled from fragments of my favorite Borges stories that’ve been strung together using my own words to make it “comprehensible”; as a demonstration that most (all) ideas are drawn from a well that’s filled with the ideas of others.
Everything is a remix.



There’s a roster of #letsblogoff posts below that lists other participants. Go read their stuff too.
Don’t forget to leave a comment.

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Show and NOT tell; Architecture Week - Sat...

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This is Carlo Scarpa. He is cool, no? Of course he is (er was, because he’s dead now), but the real question’s why was he cool?



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Y : Is it the hat?
M: It certainly is a nice hat, but that’s not why.

Y : Is it the slightly haggard and aloof appearance?
M: Stoic and smooth for sure, but no.

Y : *eyeroll*
Y : It’s because he was an architect right?

M: *grinning*
M: He was an architect, who wasn’t an architect.

Carlo Scarpa never sat for the Pro Forma, Italy’s professional examination for architects. So he never obtained a professional license. I don’t know why he never took the exam, but I imagine it’s because he had rebellious tendencies.

I like his work immensely. I think he was highly skilled with all things interstitial, left over, and unlinked. His work is textural, experiential, and human in a way that often escapes the profession these days. The most well known of Scarpa’s works is likely Castle Vecchio, and the Brion Tomb and Sanctuary, and it’s these I’m showcasing today.

Castle Vecchio Museum:

Scarpa’s design hand is visible in the stairways, doorways, and passages of this restoration. I hear it’s challenging to photograph. Some say it’s because Scarpa’s work isn’t very photogenic. I say it’s because his work’s not about standing outside, looking in.

This interstitial space appears fairly random and chaotic from “outside”. No?

It’s small, but dense with awesomeness.

You’ll need to start with the right foot to climb that stair (literally).

Sweet concrete stair!

A convergence of circulation?

That is one sweet stair!


Brion Tomb and Sanctuary:

This project is an addition to an older cemetery. And what is a cemetery but the interstice between life, and whatever follows it?

Foggy awesomeness.

I believe this is the sanctuary.

Great light, awesome details. How could one not like this?!?

The tomb wall I believe.

Crazy skylight.

This is a meditation space. The portals are rimmed with glazed tile - sweet!

Carlo Scarpa died in 1978, at the age of 72. He succumbed to injuries resulting from falling down a flight of concrete stairs. He’s buried in a standing position and wrapped in linen sheets (medieval knights were buried in this manner). His grave is an interstitial space between the new and old cemetery walls of the very project showcased here.

Awesome.


What’s on your list of obscure, interesting architecture? Leave a comment.
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Show and NOT tell; Architecture Week - Fri...

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“So what do you need, besides a miracle?”

“Seeds. Lot’s of seeds.”



Know where that’s from? If so leave your guess in the comments. Until you get there put your hands in the air, it’s Friday! It’s Architecture Week! And we’re talking genetic material in the form of seeds! Sweet, right?

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “what do seeds have to do with architecture?”

Oh I don’t know. Just the obvious fact that without seeds there’d be no food; and without food there’d be no life; and without life there’d be no Architecture. Reason enough to build a suitably cool display for them. No?

Yes! Enter the UK Seed Pavilion, in Shanghai. Though I’ve not been to it, I still think it’s awesome. It’s that “hairy” cube built for the Shanghai Expo 2010. I know, 2010, it’s so last year. But it’s got 60,000 acrylic rods! Each one containing the seeds of a different plant. It makes me wonder how much sixty-thousand, unique, acrylic fabrications cost?

It’s difficult to gauge its exact size and scale from this view.

Most people say brush, I say cockle-burr. Whatever is conjured in one’s mind, it’s got a nice scale to it. It’s refreshingly human.

Exterior detail of the acrylic rods. They all appear to extend equally to some exterior offset “envelope”.

The acrylic rods appear to be of varying lengths from the inside. Each rod contains a unique species, and is a unique length. It boggles my mind a bit; how to go about manufacturing them in a cost effective way? Just imagine the coordination it took to get all the pieces in the right place.

Maybe the acrylic rods are made of modular assemblies that can be attached to each other, in order to construct different lengths? Difficult to say.


While the UK Seed Pavilion is a really beautiful seed display. I don’t think it’ll be easy to extract them for planting should the need arise. While I’m no botanist, I doubt they’d be viable anyway. So how do you preserve plant bio-diversity in a viable manner?

Easy. You gather plant seeds from a whole bunch of different species, and stick those seeds in the fridge.

Welcome to the
Svalbard Seed Vault! The world’s refrigerator. This facility has been dug into the permafrost of Norway! It’s like an arctic NORAD for seeds. While it has no war room It is secure, very secure; and Svalbard is a way cooler name. Also it’s sited at high enough elevation to avoid inundation should the ice-caps melt.

The Plan, small but clear. On the left is a parking lot. There are two trucks parked in it. See the shaded area? That’s permafrost baby!

That’s Longyearbyen, the capitol of Svalbard. Clearly it’s a teeming metropolis.

The entrance to the vault. Apparently the Longyearbyen zoning ordinance doesn’t require fully screened equipment.

The vista to downtown.

I’m guessing this door is frequently obstructed by snow. Notice the electrical conduit routed through the louvers - nice.

The vault access tunnel. The permafrost walls will prevent temperature rise in the event of cooling system failure. Yes there is a refrigeration system for this facility - go figure.

What’s on your list of obscure, interesting architecture? Leave a comment.
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Show and NOT tell; Architecture Week - Thu...

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Prompted by some great comments from Tuesday’s installment. I thought it’d be fun to linger a bit and showcase fictional architecture. You know. The kind of stuff that exists only in the illustrator’s/architect’s mind vast territory of madness. Illustrations of architecture that could be real, but aren’t; except as depictions of a space, a place, or an object.



As I compiled the images to illustrate this post I noticed something interesting. Whether old, new, painted, computer generated, or drawn the actuality of cities and buildings is rarely shown. As far as I can find, fictional architecture is depicted either as an ideal utopia, or nightmarish dystopia. It’s as if there’s only hope, or despair, in peoples minds at any time throughout history. Curious.

Coruscant; The capitol city of the Empire in Star Wars.

Broad-acre City; from the mind of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Nice painting. Though it doesn’t appear that any boat could fit through those buttresses, let alone one big enough to require cranes for moving freight.

Sweet drawing. I don’t know who did it.

Radiant City; as conceived by Corbusier.

Fishing village dystopia.

One of the sets in the movie; Metropolis.

Reminiscent of sets from Metropolis, no?

Destruction of the Empire; Thomas Cole.

Check out all of that utpoic hygiene.

Surely the future will kick ass...

Or it’ll kick. Your. Ass.

Even the dirt is clean.

Picturesque landscape. Clean, peaceful city. Planets rising in the distance.

It appears that the cities of the future will either have built-up every square foot of the landscape, or will coexist peacefully with it.

What’s on your list of obscure, interesting architecture? Leave a comment.
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Show and NOT tell; Architecture Week - Wed...

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Wednesday is day three of Architecture Week. Are you sick of it yet?!? Me neither.

Today’s installment of the obscure, infamous, or interesting is Spaceport America in New Mexico. This project is the product of collaboration between Virgin Galactic, Foster+Partners, SMPC Architects, and URS Corporation.



Personally, I like the concept as it appeals to my
“Star Trek TNG” sensibilities. However I leave it to the market to show whether privately funded space travel is economically viable, or not.


The diagram above is interesting, and annotated well but I’m still skeptical.


Exploded program.


Alien space ship?


Site Plan.


I’m not seeing the “cooling labyrinths” shown in the first diagram. Perhaps their buried inside the earthen berms.


Maybe those holes in the retaining wall are the cooling intakes?


Clear image of volume relative to earthen mass.



What’s on your list of obscure, interesting architecture? Leave a comment.
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Show and NOT tell; Architecture Week - Tue...

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Obscure and marginalized, Lebbeus Woods isn’t so much non-famous as infamous, and interesting. By my experience he’s either detested or loved (depending upon who one asks). While they are certainly brutal, I like his drawings and diagrams; I think they’re freakin’ sweet.



Still I can’t help but believe that any architect who’d actually inflict such spaces and objects as these upon society is an architect who’s either infatuated with dystopia, or suffers from a chronic Cassandra complex. Fortunately, Lebbeus Woods has no built work so nothing’s been inflicted yet. And I am no psychologist so my dubious diagnosis remains debatable.

I can imagine these spaces and objects as constructed in the absence of architects either out of necessity, or as the result of rampant DIY dreams.


Reminds me of “12 Monkeys”.


“Johnny Mnemonic”, or maybe some jawa habitrail from “Star Wars”.


Definitely “Brazil”.





These last two remind me of “War of the Worlds”, or “District 9”.


What’s on your list of obscure, interesting architecture? Leave a comment.
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Show and NOT tell; Architecture Week - Mon...

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There are soo many fabricated weeks on the calendar and this week just so happens to be architecture week. Yay! In the spirit of fabricated importance I’m going to try and present one interesting and obscure project per day, for the week.



Perhaps more infamous than “non-famous”, the first installment’s easy. A friend and I did this for a competition. We didn’t win (oh well).

The project’s a flood observatory/museum, flood shelter, and eco-tourist hostel in Tabasco Mexico.

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Yes that’s an airship

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Trees would be nice

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What’s on your list of obscure, interesting architecture? Leave a comment.

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Legacy is...

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Walking amongst phantoms, feeling their vaporous touch and sensing their ghostly vectors.


I’m locked in perpetual conflict with “legacy”;
don’t reinvent the wheel - respond in a unique way; walk your own path - pay attention to precedent. From a design perspective the nature of this conflict isn’t so much a battle, as a dance - like the Tango.

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Occasionally I meet a legacy that can REALLY dance and I’m seduced into forcing complex solutions onto simple problems. When this happens it’s a sign that I’ve fabricated some obligation; either to preserve the memory of those “who’ve been there, and done that”, or to erase and lay waste to history. Fortunately, while the dance is sweet it eventually comes to an end. Whichever fabrication’s in place at the end of the dance, it’s a mold I find I just can’t pour into.

Faced with this I’m inclined to “break the mold.” I try not to do so out of self-conscious rebelliousness; it’s not resistance for resistance’s sake. I simply have a desire, indeed a need to discover through design, the most fit solution, to a given problem, with respect for currency. Design solutions are rarely everlasting - How many things are perfect the instant they’re produced without need, nor possibility for improvement? I believe that legacies are manifestations of obsolescence, and that breaking them is good (creative even). Erosion (aka sitting idle, slowly fading from memory and existence) is just a waste.


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Breaking a legacy is one thing. Discarding the fragments is another; because It just so happens that legacy fragments make an excellent foundation for the construction of new ones. Here’s a movie, about a bunch of movies, as proof (everyone knows that if it’s in the movies it’s true). “Part 2” of this web video series focuses film, but the gist of it applies here:



Ultimately, whatever legacy I manage to create will become obsolete. When that happens I hope someone breaks it, grinds the fragments to dust, and uses it to make their own. Even if that
someone is just my future self.


There’s a roster of #letsblogoff posts below that lists other participants. Go read their stuff too.
Don’t forget to leave a comment.

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The truth jurts, but not THAT much...

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I’m sitting in the Argo Tea on Belmont satellite office rehashing old thoughts when I have an epiphany. Time to accept it. Time to step out of the fog of shame and confess.

I’m an architect...



*crickets*

I exist in the world, but live in my mind...

*crickets* (one cricket calls out mock-surprised, “Nooo, you’re kidding me!?)

It’s true, but it’s not the withdrawn out of touch with reality sort of living in my mind. It’s the intense, creative, calculating sort. Like
Dom Cobb, I perceive the boundary between inside and out. When inside I know I’m there. When outside I’m not fooling myself into jumping out of a freakin’ window to wake up. Unlike Dom, I’m not imprisoning memories of regret to torture myself with, nor am I “inside” to escape reality in favor of some fictional bliss. Life’s not a freakin’ movie ya know! (althoOUugh folding Parisian streets would be cool).

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I call this world inside my mind “a vast territory of madness.”

Try this: Imagine the most mechanical, icy calm you can muster. Now remove those last bits of bliss and “fuzzy” contentment (without also adding angst and self-consciousness). Got it?

Good! Let’s call what you’re imagining “dead-pan serious”. Now imagine me (you don’t have to really KNOW me, work with me here)! Imagine
me, THAT dead-pan serious when I say this next thing; it’s a statement of pure fact, like saying the ocean’s big:

I harbor no self-loathing, regret, nor resentment for this “madness” of mine. I unapologetically own it, and have done so for a long time. Some tell me I’ve an exceptional asset, to which I reply, “thanks, I’m a cyclist.”

I’m not being smart, or clever (well, that part about my asset is a little clever). I’m ranting attempting to kill a myth, or wound it so badly that it’ll bleed to death in the woods. A myth born in the mind of
everyman and now being perpetuated by architects themselves; that architects are self-absorbed, out-of-touch, and out-of-reach.

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To the architects reading this who are self-absorbed with their own success: *waving my hand in your faces, snapping my fingers* You there? hello?! Whatever...

To the architects reading this who are self-absorbed with pity at the current state of the profession:
Read this stat! Now quit your crying!

To the architects who’ve got a handle on their self-absorption, and to the curious onlookers (who aren’t fazed by the sight of imaginary blood): Read on and prepare to feast upon the myth I’m about to take out with this stick I’ve sharpened on a rock.

Hey, curious onlookers! Since you’re obviously riveted by my writing prowess still reading you can help. Just try and keep up as wounded myths are highly dangerous - besides it’s seen you with me and now it thinks we’re a hunting party.

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Remember the “vast territory of madness” I mentioned? All architects have one (the right one’s do anyway), and we each call it something different. Whatever it’s named, it functions as a “problem space”; the mental place where we construct the scope of whatever “problem” we’re dealing with. We fill this “space” with the variables that guide us to solutions. Items like client needs, client desires, and constraints of all sorts; even gravity’s there. It’s a lot of complex information that we become the custodian of and constantly tend to; revising, updating, and correcting. We can get pretty preoccupied with it all, but everyman, If you feel we’re fading and losing touch with you, “just give us the safe word and take your hand and smack us in the mouth”. We’ll re-focus!

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I know it’s hard to believe but architects don’t use jargon to make walls. We use concrete. It makes a much better wall. Though we may occasionally utter strange words belonging to some freakish internal dialogue. It’s no biggie that’s just the pressure of excitement escaping the seal separating our ”real” internal world from the real external one (it’s a self-regulating system). Everyman, if you feel we’re getting cryptic and beyond your reach, call us out. I know a saucy blogger who’d suggest an “eye-motherfuckin-roll” followed by a snappy wise-crack as a chaser (careful when you click that link, I’m pretty sure her words could kick your ass).

Well now! After all that I could eat this whole myth myself. Want some?
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Preoccupation...

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I awoke today with a mission. Update the optical media archive housing all of the projects I’ve ever worked on. “It’s been awhile”, I think to myself pondering the stacks of CD’s and DVD’s that’ve been accumulating for the past four years nine months on my desk (owning and operating your own business takes a lot of time, OK)!



Cataloging’s not a HUGE effort as I’ve got a fairly organized system in place. It just takes time so the task inevitably takes “back-burner” to web surfing, twitter, and managing iTunes actual productive work.

Armed with an iced tea, fresh beats on iTunes, and high resolve I set about the task at hand. “This’ll take no time at all ‘cause the software does all of the work,” I say aloud while separating a handful of disks for visual inspection (which reveals the disks have no identifying marks what-so-ever). “Pfft! That’s ok, I’ll just write what the software lists as the name as I go,” I say aloud (again) grinning at my clever solution.

Disk one in, Tray closed. Two minutes pass. Tray opens, “Disk is empty, please insert a disk.”
Disk two in. Tray closed. Two minutes nigh. Tray opens, “Disk empty, insert a disk with actual data on it.”
Disk three in. Two minutes, “Disk empty!”
Disk four...you get the picture.

I must’ve been channelling you know who:



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(Louis Kahn!? Oops, I mean):



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because TEN disks later (no joke) I finally insert a disk with stuff on it, and find this:



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I worked on this a while ago.

Isn’t it sweet how the essence of the light is captured!? Louis Kahn would be proud ‘cause the whole project consists of nothing but events like this. Notice the subtle use of the scaffolding...

Oh fine! It’s a construction photo I took. This condition existed for an instant in construction time. The light is pouring in through an opening that eventually received a big exhaust duct and louver. The ethereal glow is due to construction dust in the air. Real poetic huh? I still freakin’ love the light.

Alright! back to cataloging. Good thing I’ve written ID information on these disks; it’ll ease the label-making process. I’ll just stack ‘em right here while I...
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