Please check out my latest blog post, “The Tawdry, Odyssey of a Flute Tramp” here:
Please check out my latest blog post, “The Tawdry, Odyssey of a Flute Tramp” here:
Gazing out the window, my thoughts drift to springtime. Springtime? I do not think that means what I think it means. It’s mid-April and the snow just. keeps. falling – 20 inches, with more on the way. I guess I’ll write a poem.
We are preparing to demolish a somewhat uninspired house in Los Angeles and replace it with a modern home veritably oozing with character. Yes, modern homes can have character! Here are a few renderings, starting with one showing the old superimposed over the new.
This old house has a 3-car, attached garage. Or, more accurately, the old 3-car garage has a house attached to it. We normally prefer to downplay garages in our home designs, yet this site required it be at the front of the home. To make it even more challenging, the client needed an additional stall. So, we hired David Copperfield (not really) and magically made a large garage appear smaller.
The solution was simple, really: double load the garage and access it from two sides. Easy, huh? It didn’t hurt that we also provided windows and other details to enhance what is often left as an awkwardly scaled element of a home.
Voila! A garage befitting of Tony Stark, Iron Man.
Oddly enough, I can actually picture this kitchen screaming, “I’m too young to die!” No, the thought doesn’t keep me up at night, but Robyn tells me I’ve been sort of weepy-eyed lately.
We architects tend to think long term. We design for centuries, or at a minimum, decades. Not a couple of years. This penthouse I designed barely made it that. It was purchased from my former clients last year, along with the unit below it, and is now undergoing a two-story merger of sorts. Wonder where it will end up?
Back in 2014 I dabbled in a new medium, 3d printing. I suppose I should have printed something architectural… instead I created two snowmen ornament prototypes (probably need to mix it up a bit or I’ll forever be known as “that Snowman Guy,” rather than “that Chippendale Dancer Guy”). For the first ornament I asked myself, what would a snowman look like if it was turned inside-out. Why, you ask? Give me a minute. I’ll come up with something.
The other ornament is four snowmen in one. It is a reflection of the myriad, disparate people (or states of mind) within each of us. If you are wondering, I spent most of that year as the one screaming to get out! Still trying, by the way.
The ornament’s head-block is attached to the flat, internal belly piece and rotates to conceal it. You can see it on the first and last photo. This is intended to display a locket-sized photo when rotated.
Woo Hoo! They did it! Team Unstoppable Energy stepped up their game last weekend and advanced to the state level of the Lego robotics world competition on February 24th. The competition is getting much, much tougher. These three fifth-graders are now up against teams comprised mostly of eighth-graders. Of the 640 Minnesota teams (Minnesota has the most teams of any state, btw), there are only 50 left (about 8%). We couldn’t be more proud (except, maybe, for the Vikings). Go team!
I got off to a late start making snowman ornaments for Robyn this year. With less than a week until Christmas, I made my move (which amounted to scratching my belly, drinking some holiday margaritas, and catching up on my emails). Determined to win yet another procrastination trophy, I put the whole thing out of my mind. Despite this, ideas seeped past my protective subconscious barrier like acid rain through an old roof, and I gave in. We’re talking Faberge Egg quality ideas. Too bad they all required way more time than I had left. So I decided to wing it, and just started cutting wood to see what evolved. The sound of band saws floated through the cold, night air.
I have to admit, not all the ornaments this year were painstakenly crafted in my shop. The first ornament took about as long for me to make as for Robyn to unwrap. After 26 years, I think she’s catching on to my “managing expectations” ploy, because she seemed to sense better things coming. I have to give her credit, though, at least she feigned interest. I could tell this by her many questions about how I made it, materials used and such. Questions like:
“Did you use, I mean steal, the balls from grandma’s dining table centerpiece to make this?” To which grandma replied, “He did what!?”
“Is that a colored pencil as the nose? You stuck a colored pencil through grandma’s table decoration? Seriously?” “He did what!?
“Was this the box you asked me to wrap on Christmas Eve? You had me wrap my own present, didn’t you?” “He did what!?
I wish grandma’s hearing wasn’t so good.
Yep. That went about as well as expected (for those of you worried about grandma’s centerpiece, the ornament is held together only by friction and a knot of ribbon. It’s fine. Really. Please don’t send emails.)
The next ornament falls under the category “good in theory, not so good in practice.” The idea was to create a customizable snowman ornament toy, changeable each year with different features and attire – a Mr. Potato Head for the Christmas tree. Except, I’d use magnets. Fun, huh?
I thought I was so clever. I’d just buy a couple of steel balls and a variety of magnets and let Robyn and Beck do the building. Score one for Team Lazy.
It didn’t work. It was far too heavy and plummeted right off the branch, homicidally taking two other ornaments with it (which I now have to repair, damn it). And, it is too small and fussy to handle. The tiny neodymium magnets are seriously strong and can hardly be pried apart from all the other tiny parts. They naturally snap together in a clump, pinching fingers on their way.
What’s more, all the shiny reflections obscure its features, like its eyes and nose. The Christmas tree needles reflect off its surface giving it better camouflage than a sniper. If your tree is steel-reinforced, you may be able to hang it (I’d recommend securing it with an arc welder), but you will never find it again. I’d show you a picture of it hanging on a tree, but you’d have an easier time finding Waldo. Plus, I don’t dare attempt to hang it again. Someone could lose a foot.
Maybe someday I’ll try making another one. I’ll bury the steel balls within wood balls and embed the tiny magnets into wood features and… yeah. That’ll be a cold day in hell.
No worries, though, two snowman down, and I was ready with more. Thank you, Lego Company. Beck and I raided the Legos he received last Christmas (which were the ones, actually, he gave to me for Christmas, but why quibble over ownership). We got in some play time, and Robyn got some ornaments. A win-win (except I have fewer Legos, now. Or Beck does. Whatever.). Of the two snowmen, one of them is a bit closer to the grave than the other. See if you can guess which.
The next ornament is the first of my new primitive collection. That’s what I’m calling it, because I’ve already used the word lazy, and I’m too lazy to use a thesaurus. Honestly, I like its bold simplicity (in addition to it’s speed of manufacture). Not sure if most people will know it’s a snowman, though. Must be art or something.
Moving away from rough-sawn simplicity, here are four snowmen for the price of one (except I don’t sell them, sorry. So technically it’s just four snowmen in one).
In an uncharacteristic departure from snowmen, I drilled a hole and stuck an eyelet into an old bowling pin trophy. It took no time at all, but Robyn says it still counts. You see, we cleaned out my parents’ old house this year, since my dad lives in Florida now and my mother passed away many years ago. She loved to bowl, and this is one of her trophies. Just a little remembrance. You won’t find our Christmas tree gracing the cover of Architectural Digest, but it works for us.
Along the same lines, I came across a boatload (ok, a box, actually) of old Josten’s paraphernalia. My father spent the better part of his life selling class rings and graduation announcements. A few pieces of that life made their way into this little snowman ornament.
As mentioned here, my ornaments often reflect the zeitgeist of the year, and a good chunk of this year was spent with Legos. Not the little bricks, but the technic robotics. If you didn’t know, Legos makes parts that include a little computer, motors, gears, sensors (such as color, ultrasonic, infrared and touch) that allow you to build autonomous robots (sadly, not the kind that shoot flames and spin blades. Cuz that would be cool!).
Beck and a couple of his friends formed a team last year and competed in the Legos International Robotics Challenge. They built a robot and programmed it for this year’s competition and are currently competing against 600 teams across Minnesota. The team won their first competition while Beck won an award for innovative programming. Kudos, kids! These rambunctious 11-year olds face their next competition in February (unless you read about their coaches in the local paper – watch for stories of escaped mental patients and explosions).
And that’s all folks. Hope you have a great new year!