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climbing out of Truckee

that’s what the recent century that I rode around Lake Tahoe was like. I couldn’t have dreamt better weather, and our entire team rode swift and strong. With no official time goal other than completion before course closure (roughly 12 hours or 6am to 6pm), and since I’m mad, and afflicted with cycling sickness, I set a personal goal of six hours. Don’t let me fool you, it’s not as aggressive as it sounds. While it certainly is challenging given the topography, it’s not impossible.

I did this ride for a number of reasons; To celebrate a decade since the
last time she asked me if I was ready; To celebrate the memory of a friend’s son whose tour of life was way too brief; And to reconnect with a worthy cause.

If that's not sufficient there
is the scenery.

Emerald Bay
Emerald bay. Nice!

Our pace-line had five riders. We covered fifty miles in 2:20:00. We put seventy-two miles behind us by 3:20:00. The remaining distance of 28 miles, was spent cranking up the slopes of Spooner Peak at a swift pace of 8-10mph. Of course once we crested that hill, the downhill pace increased to 40mph. Total ride time: 6 hours. Average speed: 17mph. Of 3500 riders we finished in the top 10%. Sweet!

Rockin' Homewood!

There are side effects that accompany training for such a challenging event. One becomes swift, strong, and focussed. Simply put...

One becomes an athlete.

Another fully awesome outcome of this effort is that I’m now a cycle coach for Leukemia, Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Team in Training (TnT). They are the organization, and training program I’ve been participating in.

madness knows no bounds.
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Rookie marks...

big chainring

I’m on a plane, bound for Tahoe to ride a century. For those wondering what that is; it’s a 100 mile road race/ride on a bicycle (yes, completed in one day). If you’ve read my profile, you already know that I enjoy cycling. Immensely. If you haven’t read my profile, you know now - ‘cause I just said as much. Cycling is awesome! I enjoy it at least as much as I enjoy architecture (more so even) because cycling works my body, like architecture works my brain. If it’s not obvious, I intentionally use the term “cycling” in lieu of “bicycle riding” in an attempt to convey relative intensity. I break it down like so:

For “bicycle ride-ists” there are two types of intensity; not so intense, and just intense enough. Which is to say not so intense as to be impossibly difficult, and just intense enough to result in positive fitness. Most “bicycle ride-ists” can cruise all day, at speeds that’ll get ‘em to wherever they’re going, in a reasonable amount of time. All the while getting some sun, and scoping some scenery.

For cyclists too, there are two types of intensity; intense speed, and intense distance. Some cyclists can crank their mechanical steeds at speeds in excess of 25 mph, others crank them for vast distances of 125 miles in a single sitting, still others do both - which is decidedly un-human or “god-like”. I personally mis-fit into this spectrum clocking a respectable speed of 16-18 mph (average), maintaining such for up to 100 miles.

“Bicycle ride-ists” and cyclists both are fully awesome, it’s just that cyclists are on a different plane. Most say we’re sick - I’ve often felt that my madness knows no bounds, but I digress...

I’ve done this before, this exact ride. Ten years ago. Starting my training regimen six months after the last time she asked me if I was ready, and completing the full 100 miles in just over 6 hours. This time I’m aiming for 6 hours flat (or less).

The training is complete now. Travel time has me reflecting on how fun the training has been. The team will arrive and the “high-landers” will rib us “flat-landers” about how the hills, “are gonna wipe us out”. Their good natured laughter will be stifled when they find that we’re pulling them over the mountains. ‘Cause we've got wind baby! And wind is like a constant hill. No respite, none! Just hunker down ‘n’ crank through it - call me wind-slayer : )

Speaking of good-natured ribbing, there’s been plenty of that amongst our own team. After our 80 mile training ride we were sitting around admiring our rookie marks - we’re all seasoned riders, but we all still get the greasy “tattoos”. One of the other riders pointed out that I had TWO! I looked at my calf, and sure enough there were two greasy chainring marks there. One behind the other. 

Team: *laughter*
Me: Wait a second *observing a little more closely, and pointing to the marks* This one looks like the chainring profile, just like those you all have. But this one here looks like the chain. The only way that could happen is if my chain was on the biggest chainring! Evidently, I was grinding the big chainring, and you weren't!
Team: **
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Poetry month…


It’s already April (25 to be exact) and I’m late for this party. No matter, poetry harbors no schedule, and that’s one reason it’s so awesome. There are other reasons this is so; Poetry is the literature of everyman - anyone can write it; Poetry need not follow “top down” writing conventions - it has a rebellious nature that attracts me; Poetry spawns easily in the mind, when the mind is open to free association - which is habitually so for mine.

Madness you say? Maybe - I do enjoy my own madness, so.

I’m celebrating this year’s poetry month by revisiting verse I have written, am writing, or am reading - It’s a vicious circle really, though a vice of poetry can’t be all bad, can it?

It’s a “tradition in progress”. Last year I was
Mapping Memory, this year I’m Automatic Writing - sort of:

raw storm.

like wind play.
the repulsive apparatus

death's symphony.

bitter flood of light

my forest
robs the void of men's
dreams. and day,

a red ship,

another soul.

yours truly; circa 1994

1994 was a while ago - remember, poetry harbors no schedule. Love it or loath it, poetry is every-where and every-when!
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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...


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.


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.


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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A great big hug of hurt...


Or what not to do on your J4 vacation.

I've been busy since NeoCon. I had a furniture showroom project (for the event) which was completed just in time, and the party was outta' control. Close on the heels of that was Spring Fling (an industry benefit party that's held here every year). Put on by one of the bigger developers in the city, everyone gets all fancy and hangs out on the riverfront for the evening. Most go from fancy to sloppy in a few short hours : ) The beginning of Summer is such an inhibition obliterating time in Chicago. I guess it's all the Winter angst making 'em crack.

Spring Fling crowd in the “shadow” of the Marina Towers

Chicago River at dusk

Most recently I’ve returned from the annual family J4 celebration tan, relaxed and uninjured. This celebration takes place on the family farm. The farm consists of 15 acres partitioned into three pastures and a yard. It contains three barns, a large residence, and a pool-house with a pool. All of which is surrounded on three sides by an Army Corp of Engineer’s lake. It’s like a resort and it’s pretty freakin’ sweet!

Fishin’ pond

Engineer’s lake


My use of the word “uninjured” is important as I’m responsible for the pyrotechnics (yes we have our own homegrown fireworks display). It’s a pretty impressive show for being designed using strictly consumer grade fireworks. While I’m no crazy pyro, I have been “playing with fire” for eight years now. I’ve never been injured...by the fireworks.

Nice mortar shot

Fan shaped fountain with mortar charges

Finale of mortar charges

A couple of years ago my Uncle asked me to burn the pile of yard debris (by yard debris I mean fallen trees and branches) that normally serves as our celebratory bonfire. That year was a doozy for storms which resulted in a pile that was too large to "safely" serve as the S'more fabrication area. (Pfft! Come on it's just 30 feet across, and 12 feet high).

The only way to get a wet pile that large to catch fire is to use lighter fluid (by lighter fluid I mean diesel fuel, which is less explosive than gasoline). So I go out to the barn. Get the diesel fuel, pour two cups on five locations radially around the pile. Clear the area of flammable materials. Ignite a ball of newspaper, and throw it on the pile...

Turns out what I thought was diesel was actually gasoline because the freakin' fireball that came off the pile surrounded me giving me a great big hug of hurt. It’s fortunate that I shave my head, and was wearing natural fibers, because the inferno removed the hair from my exposed arms and legs. So intense, and fast, was the ignition that the "backdraft" through the pile blew out all but two of the five locations I’d doused with fuel. Yes, a mushroom cloud climbed into the air, and many relatives came out of the house to see what had caused it only to find me, hosing the ashes of singed hair off of myself. The worst thing I suffered was that, and imagining how bad it could've been.
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I am Izzy Darlow, and i am a TV addict...


*Um, not really*

I wouldn’t exactly classify myself as an “average television watcher”. I certainly do watch it, but far less than the national average of five hours per day. Maybe in the past I watched more than average, so in the end it all balances out. I don’t know. It’s difficult to say.

I’ve spent way more hours than I had planned, exploring the hidden corners of the territory I inhabit. Seeking shows that I’d be embarrassed to admit I watch, but do so anyway because I’m addicted. I’ve found nothing. It’s not because I’m not addicted to a television show. Rather, it’s because I’m rarely embarrassed. One of these days, I’ll have to explore what actually does embarrass me. Discovering that could be very cathartic.

In the absence of current TV shows that fit the bill I’ve come up with a list of shows that I have been addicted to. In the past. Perhaps you know of some of these.

Remember this one? Freaking outstanding TV show. I loved it then. I still do. In fact, I’m now on a quest to obtain the DVD’s of every episode.

Yeah, I’m a hardcore Trekkie though I’ve never been to a Star Trek convention. I wouldn’t put it past me.

Originally aired on MTV’s Liquid Television (when MTV was cool). It’s dark and sexy, with all of it’s intrigue and scantily clad operatives. I have every episode on DVD. Yes, I still watch it.

This is no “kids” cartoon (mostly because they don’t understand the humor). If you’ve never seen it, it’s hard to explain, but I find it hilarious. Think dark irony. Jhonen Vasquez who’s most well know for a pulp comic he used to write titled “Johnny The Homicidal Maniac”. I still watch Invader Zim (I’ve got all episodes on DVD).

I’m a Trekkie. Duh! Plus Patrick Stewart rocks as far as I’m concerned.

This one is the most recent of all. Originally airing in 2006, but re-released this year on the Science Channel. It’s the most realistic scifi space show I’ve seen.

I feel much better now that I got that off my chest.

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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Do it yourself...

Ahhh, the mantra of ultimate personal action.

I love that phrase because it’s a scalpel; it’s Phaedrus’ knife. It precisely divides one’s desire for something from one’s willingness to invest in it’s production. Everyone knows that an investment of this sort is commonly made with one’s own blood, sweat, and tears hands. Sometimes it also requires some money and resources, depending upon one’s skill level.

While it seems as if my whole life’s been a constant utterance of the phrase, “if you don’t do it yourself, no one’s going to do it for you,” I’m conflicted when it comes to DIY. I really like the satisfaction it produces in me, and I’m often impressed by of the innovative stuff people create with their own hands. However, as a professional, I also believe that some things are best left to professionals.

To illustrate here’s my unofficial list of DIY, or not:

1. Plastic surgery - Stupid and definitely NOT DIY (no images for this one, I leave it to your imagination).

Aron Ralston

2. Limb amputation - If your life depends upon it,
possibly DIY.


3. Semi-public tree-houses (read buildings) - While interesting,
not DIY.

yurt big
Also from
ModernSauce - easily my favorite blog

4. Nomadic shelters - Hip, wired, and
definitely DIY.

There, I fixed it from here

5. Plumbing work -
not DIY.

Isaac Frankle aka Shovelman

6. Musical instruments -
absolutely, positively, DIY.

Shovelman - Moonshine Music Video from Jason Mongue on Vimeo.

Shovelman built that singing shovel himself. Check out this video of him making it sing. It’s pretty sweet! I think he sounds a lot like
Tom Waits.

Share with us your unofficial list of DIY, or not. Leave a comment.
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Keep moving...

I walk.

Just, walk. Moving from the point where I entered this existence to the point where I’ll exit. Like many I’m intimately familiar with my own start point, and know nothing of my own endpoint; not the when, the where, nor my proximity to either. Common sense demonstrates the endpoint to be in flux, undetermined, and inevitable.

I’ve faced a few hazards; “stumbled, skinning my hands and knees” so to speak. I’ve faced more hazards than some, not as many as others, but each time I’ve gotten to my feet and kept moving knowing the cuts would heal (rub some dirt on it). I fully expect to face, and conquer many more. My confidence in their repetition comes from the fact that hazards are everywhere. My confidence in conquering them comes from the fact that while those I’ve managed to traverse may have left me with “scars”, they’ve also provided me with “tools”; and it’s these tools I’ve decided to collect and carry with me always.

We all bear the marks of our existence, but we also bear the implements enabling
changes in ourselves, that correspond to changes in our world. I don’t see this as heroic, or extraordinary; I see it as normal. Sometimes we’re just unaware of the tools, for the fact that we’re obsessed with the marks.

My “rucksack” contains seven items. They aren’t heavy, I’m not burdened by them, and they’re “multi-taskers”. Each has a primary function that may be extended, and applied to infinite tasks when used in concert with the others.

compassion like this

Compassion: The trek’s hot and difficult. When my path crosses another’s. IF I have it to spare, sharing a bit of water gets us both a little further along.

curiosity like this

Something WILL happen up ahead. I’ll find out what it is when I get there, and I’ll deal with it then.

ingenuity like this

Ingenuity: There’s no NEED to remain on the trail.

perspective like this

Perspective: Things end someday, someway, and somewhere. It’s normal; worrying about it isn’t.

skepticism like this

Skepticism: Don’t believe a word I’m saying. Trust only yourself, and your experience.

strength like this

Strength: True strength need not profess itself.

vision like this

Vision: True vision needs no eyes.

These things I carry, sustain me in all endeavors. Hopefully those you carry sustain you; if not it may be time to replace them.

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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"You ready," she asks?


Nodding, I close my eyes to focus on relaxing my arm. A needle finds it’s way into a vein on the back of my hand. I could’ve had a port installed. But in my chest!?! Nooo thank you! Between pain and the possibility of an infection that close to my core, I’ll take pain any day.

“Here goes,” she says opening the drip valve.

I feel a cold burn creep into my vein and up my forearm, followed almost instantly by the “taste-slash-smell” of the chemo entering my bloodstream. It smarts a bit so the nurse slows the drip and the sting subsides. I can hear the incessant bleeping of some daytime talk show. It sort of pisses me off, but since they’re in this room, whoever’s watching it probably needs the distraction. So I just sit silent, eyes closed, focusing on the pulsing sound of the IV pump.

burn this moment

Hours later the side effects kick in. Lasting about a week, and ranging from a glowing (though chemically induced) sun tan, to incessant bodily pain, to weird mind things that are difficult to describe. This will be my bi-weekly ritual for the next six months.

suffer this moment

When it all feels insufferable I close my eyes, focus upon some latent detail in the environment, and center. Always with the thought, “Live this moment.” Sometimes issued as a battle cry, shouted in defiance; other times as a directive, like a quiet statement of fact. However it’s delivered, it’s the best advice ever.

focus on this moment

That was ten years ago, this month. In retrospect, the whole experience was one wild ride!

For me design’s a lot like that; tuning latent details to transform complex inputs, into coherent streams of consciousness. Streams that when focussed, produce spaces that both sustain, and are sustained by, living.

don’t speak this moment

The object of focus need not be of lofty purpose; It may just be pragmatic and simple. Either way, the fewer the words required for someone to “get” it, the better the “it” is.

These words may already be too many. Whatever ride you’re on, make it wild. Live this moment.

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; Sounds of madness...

cathedral scan image

The vast territory of madness in my mind that I inhabit is a freakish and scary
wondrous place. I can assemble visual representations of it in minutes (it’s not difficult).

How it
sounds. That’s been a challenge. Until now.

There’s planimetric music:

Whatever technology this guy is using to make building plans sing, I would like to have it.

Enveloped in freakish mystic ambience:

Punctuated with the calls of fabricated wildlife:

Isn’t it odd that architects sometimes ignore the sounds architecture makes?

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Curious?!? Good!

Who I am is Izzy Darlow. Where I am is irrelevant. What I do is anything I can muster the will
to do, and what I believe is likely to emerge from reading the entries populating this web-space. You can trust that I am human and that, is about it.

The “world” I inhabit is a vast territory of madness. I’ve been here for longer than I can remember; cobbling together my various observations, perceptions, and experiences to fashion a workable reality. Know now that there are no places of comfort here; It’s all ragged edges, hard surfaces, and loose footing. Feel free to kick around a bit if you can manage to keep from hurting yourself too badly.

If you’ve something to say about anything you read here say it, but think before you speak. I do and I expect the same of others (I’m mad, not undisciplined). Still, before you (or your thoughts) wander off you might want to take the end of this string. It’ll mark the way out so you can find your way back before the minotaur eats you!
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