Thursday, February 25, 2010

yes, three posts in one day is a bit much

But I actually wrote MOST of this post a couple days ago, so it's okay. Really.

It turns out this whole site is worth visiting, not just for giant bunnies: VULGARE > Landscape. Landscape architecture favorites, sort of.

Mammoth. This feels like a blog that I need to get to know better before judging. It deals with architecture -- theoretical, infrastructural, fictional. It also looks to contain a lot on the marriage of architecture and building technology, a subject on which I am shamefully ignorant given my concentration. (I learned some of the technology, and I learned some of the design, but I never skilfully incorporated the two. . . ) I am a bit skeptical, but I feel that I could stand to learn a lot. . .

Hipster Puppies, also known as PUPSTERS! The only problem is that as I look at the pictures, I keep saying to myself, "But this is clearly a NICE puppy! This puppy would never say that!"

I first discovered this website when I was a senior in high school: Judaism 101. I don't know why, but I am fascinated by Judaism. It is so close and so far from Christianity. I am beginning to have the same curiosity about Islam, but I know even less about it than about Judaism. (I also haven't found a site as informative and comprehensive as the one above about Judaism yet. Most sites about Islam start with something like, "No, we aren't all terrorists, thanks very much for asking.")

I did, however, find an online Qu'ran (or Koran? it's spelled the first way on Wikipedia -- I don't think Arabic transliterates very well to English).

It is certainly beautiful; it's too bad the Bible websites I use don't include versions of the original texts in Hebrew and Greek. . . well, maybe there's one out there I haven't found yet.

It's one the weird anomalies of Christianity among the "peoples of the book" that the actual text of God's word is not held to be holy (so far as I can tell). (I could be misremembering the phrase as well, but I have vague memories from Western Civ that when the Muslim Caliphate did their first sweep of conquering, they basically left Jews and Christians alone as fellow "people of the book.")

One last link (I swear): One of my architecture friends is a blogger for Dwell magazine (Dwell is kind of a big shit in the architecture world, if an oft-mocked one: See this blog for some thoughts on their photos.) In any case, whatever one might think of Dwell as a whole, she posted a really awesome photo essay on a floating village in Cambodia that is definitely worth reading.

WTF is this? Utah law may criminalize miscarriage.

I understand the danger of criminalizing "reckless" behavior by pregnant women; there's all kinds of bad places that could go, and quickly. On the other hand, I find it frustrating that in order to criticize this law, this article ends up defending pregnant women's right to abuse drugs, stay in unhealthy relationships, and not wear their seatbelts. The keynote case that prompted this business was a 17-year-old who allegedly paid a guy $150 to beat her so she would miscarry. "Reckless behavior" aside, that's just. . . well. . . wrong. I don't know how you legislate against this kind of unacceptable behavior without the possibility for abuse or misuse, but. . .

Here is the text of the law from the Utah Legislature website. The really, really weird part about this is that the bill makes a huge point of how obtaining an abortion under certain circumstances is NOT illegal, just killing your unborn child by yourself. . . (Although I do find it very interesting that in the text of this bill, "fetus" is almost never used; rather the term "unborn child.")

One section I find puzzling is:

"[This bill] provides that a woman is not guilty of criminal homicide of her own unborn child if the death of her unborn child:
1) is caused by a criminally negligent act of the woman; and
2) is not caused by an intentional, knowing, or reckless act of the woman. . ."

How is an "intentional, knowing, or reckless act" different than a "criminally negligent act"?

What gives?

The iPad. I doubt it can seriously fulfill the functions of a real laptop but. . .



So. . . what's in a thesis?

More importantly, what's in my thesis?

I have been putting off clearly defining this document for a while. Partly because it's (has the potential to be) the most work intensive thing I have on my plate this term, partly because when I start writing it. . . I have to make decisions about it.

The skeleton around the thesis is there. I want to write a document that says something meaningful about the way churches in Harrison County, Iowa, have changed over the past century, and why. There are about 40 churches (it fluctuates up and down by one or two every couple of years) in my county, serving a population of about 15,000 people. They are a powerful presence -- the first settlers in the county were religious pilgrims of a sort. I like to call these people 'disgruntled Mormons' -- people who dropped away from Brigham Young's quest to Utah before it was quite completed, who then founded the numerous RLDS churches throughout the county. The Methodists were the next great religious force to show up. Many of the early churches were Catholic; I am curious whether this can be traced to German immigrants (certainly a massive part of the county's ethnic makeup) from a certain region. After all, in that era there are stretches of Iowa where Catholic churches were rare enough that new immigrants didn't always baptize their children (a la my great-grandfather's Czech parents.)

That is the sort of mindless historical positing that I particularly enjoy doing, but the thing is, it doesn't go anywhere. I could sit around for days -- or months, in this case -- looking at pictures like this (Dunlap Methodist church) and saying "Man, isn't that cool? Dude, it's like, the same, but different! Whoa!"

The problem is that I picked a topic that sits in the middle of a gi-effing-normous gap in documented knowledge. The 7.02 (introductory bio lab) communications lady has been going on about carefully defining the "niche" your knowledge fits into, but in this case, it's not so much a niche as much as a giant fricking canyon. I want to know so many things; and it seems there is so little known -- at least not in any kind of synthesized form.

I want to know about what trends in design there are, on a very basic level. And the why. I want the why; but that in itself is a huge information collection task. I want to know what standards were in place for each denomination's archetypal church before they came to this county; I want to know what doctrinal changes have occurred globally and locally in each church over the past century; I want to know what kind of social prestige and financial well-being each of these organizations have garnered. I want to know what has changed about what their congregants think is important in their church. I want to know the kinds of people who went to this churches when they were built, and the kinds of people who go to them now.

I am most fascinated by the windows. What brings about the inclusion of such fanciful things in a place with (very) cold winters? Tradition? Symbolism? Theology? Status symbols? Windows have changed decidedly (and often painfully) as church design has evolved. Often what is installed simply seems cheaper. But in some cases the answer doesn't seem as clear, and maybe has more to do with a change in aesthetics. For instance, I was not able to go into the Logan Lutheran church, but what I could see by looking in the window and taking pictures frankly struck me as a gorgeous and mysterious treatment of light. Maybe if I could see the interior finishes and form I wouldn't be so impressed, but clearly cost was not the only defining factor in the design of light in this church.

All that being said, I'm also (largely) doing a thesis for another opportunity to work with one of my favorite professors ever, Marilyne Andersen in the Daylighting Laboratory -- which means that what I do needs to come from that angle.

Two weeks ago, I got frustrated with trying to synthesize everything I wanted to talk about (and maybe came to the realization that I was trying to write a Master's thesis in one term) and made a decision: My thesis will be limited to comparing the effect window/sanctuary design had on energy usage in the churches in this area, and vice versa. The core of this research will center on two case studies where I simulate before and after conditions in two churches that have undergone major renovations -- the Logan Christian Church and Missouri Valley Church of Christ. (There's some irony that I'm finishing a blog entry on this topic while I really ought to be finishing my revised thesis proposal. . . parental units, you didn't see that.)

So. . . what's in Venice?

The MIT Gilbert & Sullivan Players are doing The Gondoliers this term and (very kindly) asked me to publicity design for them (for the fourth time! WOOT.)

I think my standard approach of draw-and-color-with-various-tools is getting a little stale, so I am thinking on trying a new approach involving collage and photographs.

So far . . . I haven't made much progress, beyond playing with trace options in Illustrator and hue options in Photoshop. We shall see.

Progress shall be made.

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