Archive for the ‘Random Things’ Category


Friday, December 8th, 2006

Ok, show-and-tell time. Here are pictures of some of the quilts I’ve made over the years. The first one is still on the hoop and has been for a few years, but that’s the way these quilts all progress. I think I may actually have made one from start to finish within the span of a single year, but if so, it was a fluke.

The quilts are on-again, off-again, but I always seem to get back to them eventually.

House blogs

Sunday, November 19th, 2006

Here’s a fun website. HouseBlogs is a “community-powered home improvement publication” that contains posts from people who are undertaking projects on their houses or apartments and links to blogs that other DIYers have put up. The posts track the bloggers’ experiences and the lessons they’ve learned. The stories read like a soap opera – they really pull you in – and are full of pictures, how-to information, and product resources.

I’m a huge do-it-yourselfer. When we built the addition to our house 25 years ago, it would have been fun to post our progress and to see how other people solved some of the problems that we ran into. This is what’s so great about the internet – if you can just locate it, you can learn about anything you want and find other people who are interested in it too.

But the site made me think in bigger terms as well. Last year my architectural history professor assigned a paper that detailed ad nauseum the contents of 150-year-old probate records in a certain county in the South. The paper was somewhat dull to read, but it was actually quite interesting how the probate records really allowed a look into the way the people of that time lived – the furniture they used, the kinds of rooms they had, how much things cost, and what was important to them in their daily lives at home. Think how pleased an architectural historian 150 years from now might be to find these house blogs! These blogs are recording tomorrow’s history. In the scheme of life, the details of these house projects are of small matter, yet they’re so wonderfully important when they’re happening and they show so much about our culture. Looking at this site blips me into the past and then out to the future and makes me appreciate the exquisite present-ness of our lives.

Project time!

Monday, June 26th, 2006

Summer school is out and it’s two month until the fall semester, which means it’s Project Time! I’ve missed having projects, which are out of the question during school, and look forward to getting a few under my belt in the next couple of months. First project, to read all six Harry Potter books, has been accomplished. The next project is to build a platform bed for my daughter. Some ideas for a web project mulling around in my head as well. Not sure what will come after that (maybe try to finish my quilt?), but whatever it is, I will have fewer posts this summer. Here’s to summer!


Thursday, May 25th, 2006

I opened my email this evening to Contract Magazine‘s newsletter and navigated to an article entitled Clients are from Mars; Designers are from Venus by Martha G. Rayle of Rayle Associates. Rayle discusses why designers and clients often seem to speak a different language. She enumerates the complaints that these two groups have about each other and ends with a list of what clients want.

As part of this discussion, however, Rayle mentions the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a personality test that purports to pinpoint the way one focuses attention (Extroversion or Introversion: E or I), looks at things (Sensing or Intuition: S or N), makes decisions (Thinking or Feeling: T or F), and deals with the outer world (Judging or Perceiving: J or P). The test assigns a “type” based on scores in these four areas.

Rayle avers that 83% of designers are Intuitives as opposed to Sensing types. She says, “The thinking style of Intuitives begins with generalities and funnels down to specifics,” arguing that this style fits well with the design development process. She then notes that the majority of businesses are Sensing, Thinking, and Judging, with a strong tendency to solve problems by moving from specifics to the general. It is this dichotomy between the Intuitiveness of designers and the Sensing-ness of business that, she argues, causes miscommunication.

I took the Myers-Briggs test about 12 years ago and tested as an ISTJ (Introverted, Sensing, Thinking, Judging). According to the blurb on the back of my score sheet, ISTJ people are “Serious, quiet, earn success by concentration and thoroughness. Practical, orderly, matter-of-fact, logical, realistic, and dependable. See to it that everything is well organized. Take responsibility. Make up their own minds as to what should be accomplished and work toward it steadily, regardless of protests or distractions.”

My score on the Sensing-Intuition scale, however, was nearly at the middle, telling me that a couple of questions answered differently might have made me an INTJ, described as “Usually have original minds and great drive for their own ideas and purposes. In fields that appeal to them, they have a fine power to organize a job and carry it through with or without help. Skeptical, critical, independent, determined, sometimes stubborn. Must learn to yield less important points in order to win the most important.”

This is all pretty interesting, but the front of my test report form also says if the type you got assigned doesn’t fit you, “try to find one that does,” which suggests that this test is, by its own admission, not particularly precise. If I look at the descriptions of some of the other types, I can indeed recognize myself. Life’s not so simple as a personality test would suggest, but it’s fun to contemplate the results and their implications.

Besides, I’m ticking off my courses one by one and it won’t be long until I’m ready for the Big Job Hunt. Relating Rayle’s article to my own Myers-Briggs results makes me wonder – if I’m right in the middle between Sensing (business) and Intuition (design), does that mean I can do both equally well and therefore be useful to a design firm as a bridge between a design team and its business clients? I think so. This Myers-Briggs information may ultimately be helpful in figuring out how to fit myself into the design world.


Tuesday, May 2nd, 2006

I have an enormous cookbook collection. A few years back, I bought several gourmet cake cookbooks (see partial list below) and wanted to make all the recipes. Because my family couldn’t handle that many cakes, I formed a small company, Charlotte’s, and roped in several of my friends to be my guinea pigs. Each of them got a new cake per month. I got to bake and experiment, and most importantly, taste each cake.

Eventually I got through quite a few recipes and even had a couple of wedding cake jobs. The most fun project was a Three Little Pigs scene for my daughter’s class.

This little business was a lot of fun. Not only did I have a chance to bake, but I got to take cake decorating and dried flower arrangement classes, amass shelves of mixers, baking pans, decorating tips, and other tools, learn how to make sugar paste flowers and candied violets, work with marzipan and fondant, and figure out how to transport three-tiered wedding cakes without collapse.

Here are a few of my favorites.


24 hours

Friday, March 17th, 2006

Four things (just for fun)

Sunday, February 5th, 2006

This blog, so far, has been too serious. Recently, surfing around in my architecture-related links, I found about three sites that have this “Four Things” chain-letter-type post going (I first saw it on A Daily Dose of Architecture). Lists are kind of my thing – they help me remember stuff- and this blog is about letting people know who I am, and why not do something more fun? So here goes with my version of the list:

Four jobs I’ve had (that are not on my resume):

  1. Butcher in British Columbia
  2. Fish and chips fry-cook at the beach
  3. Apple packer in Missouri
  4. Printing press and package-tying machine operator at Stanford

Four films I watch repeatedly (well, maybe not repeatedly, but that I wouldn’t mind watching again anyway):

  1. Napoleon Dynamite
  2. Enchanted April
  3. Rat Race
  4. Ocean’s Eleven

Four places I’ve lived:

  1. Sandpoint, Idaho
  2. Austin, Texas
  3. Half Moon Bay, California
  4. Pago Pago, American Samoa

Four TV shows I like:

  1. The Daily Show
  2. Seinfeld
  3. History stuff
  4. Nature stuff

Four places I’ve been on holiday:

  1. Deer Valley YMCA Camp, PA
  2. Paris
  3. Kauai
  4. Kejimkujik

Four of my favorite dishes:

  1. Anything with cheese or cream (oh, my waistline)
  2. Shawarma
  3. Spinach
  4. Roast Chicken with Garlic, Rosemary and Lemon

Four websites I visit (almost) daily:

  1. Google
  2. Wikipedia
  3. My own blog
  4. Archinect

Four places I’d rather be right now:

  1. Somewhere tropical
  2. On my bike
  3. In my garden
  4. Dancing


Tuesday, January 17th, 2006

I’m a tool junky. I have tools everywhere, tools for everything, even tools for the tools. My kitchen tools have boiled over and oozed down the stairs to the basement where they occupy three additional floor-to-ceiling shelves. My sewing and craft tools have staged a coup d’etat in the family room and my drafting tools are in adverse possession of the living room. My building tools fill a room 16′ by 6′ and then some. My garden shed houses yard tools and my study is full of office gadgets. I’ve got power tools and hand tools, large tools and small tools, everyday tools and rarely-used tools.

I’m in a constant state of readiness with all these tools. Say I’m building some shelves and need a plumb bob – no problem. My hand saw is dull – I’ve got files and a saw set. I want to make a wedding cake – I’ve got 50 cake decorating tips, plastic columns, and a set of graduated cake pans ranging from 4″ to 18″.

This seems a bit excessive at times, but without the right tools, I can’t get the job done.

I amass tools for my hands, but other kinds of tools are equally important – books, education, and work experience. I like to think that what we design students are doing in our classrooms is gathering non-tangible tools for being designers. We’re learning the vocabulary and the processes of design, we’re learning how to formulate ideas and present them, and we’re learning how to be curious and to want to learn more. These tools are as valuable as our T-squares and Sign pens.

What will happen when we graduate and go out into the design profession? I’ve certainly been in a lot of jobs where the proper tools weren’t provided – bad chairs, inefficient systems, poor lighting, lack of training, discouragement of learning. Is the design profession the same? I’d like to think designers have greater access to proper tools than most. After all, designers are charged with finding solutions, not just maintaining some sort of corporate status-quo, and it’s nearly impossible to build something without the right tools.

Designers not only need tools but we also provide tools for our clients. Lighting, circulation, storage, branding, HVAC, furniture, safety. These are all tools that make for good design. They make life easier for clients.

Making life easier – this is what tools are all about. For me, it’s also about understanding how things work, feeling satisfaction in being able to do something myself, and of course getting a job done.

It’s nice to think that when I graduate from grad school and finally enter the design field, I may be able to translate my love of tools into a real profession.

The generalist in a specialist world

Wednesday, January 4th, 2006

Life is complex and pretty exciting. Nature, science, the human mind, history, all the things people can do – everything is fascinating and I want to learn it all.

I’ve had this attitude a long time. When I was a kid, in fact, I spent long hours lying in the hall next to the red-painted cabinet that held our World Book, reading article after article. My own children think that is the strangest thing, but they’re not much different. Instead of the encyclopedia, they surf the internet.

So, whenever something catches my attention, I read and experiment with it rather obsessively until I get to the bottom of it. In the past few years, this has led me through the Civil War, kaleidoscope quilts, geology of the Piedmont, knitted scarves, Photoshop, herb gardening, Medieval history, Tai Chi, stonemasonry, and a bunch of other things that slip my mind. My collection of how-to books, tools, and raw materials has taken over the house.

All this exploration has made me rather a generalist, and that brings me to the question I mean to pose in this post. Is there a place for a generalist in today’s increasingly specialized design market?

Recently I spoke with a partner in a large architecture/design firm. He told me that the firm was successful because everyone who worked there was a specialist in something – programmers collected data, space planners worked out layouts, some designers drafted walls and ceilings and others picked out furniture, and other specialists did nothing but contract documents. It sounded as if different teams of specialists only worked on specific segments of projects and that very few were involved in a project from start to finish.

While I can appreciate the benefits of this approach, it’s discouraging as well. For me, enthusiasm lies in the learning, not in regurgitating what I already know. Yes, it is extremely important for designers and architects to be experts in what they do – health and safety concerns require it – but I wonder if some of the creativity and joy that comes from being completely excited about something new isn’t diminished for designers who are channeled into a specialty.

For some who are naturally specialists, this may suit them just right. For others of us who are by nature generalists, where do we fit in?

More on Attention to Detail . . .

Thursday, December 29th, 2005

Last winter, I participated in Mentoring Week, sponsored by the IIDA. The program pairs interior design students with professional designers for a day. Students tag along with their mentor, learning first-hand about the day-to-day practice of design. I spent my day with Hartman Design Group in Rockville, MD and came away with a finer appreciation for the job of interior designer.

Students who participate in Mentoring Week are invited to submit an essay on their experience to the IIDA Foundation, which administers the Lloy Hack Memorial Fund, which in turn offers a prize for the best essay. Last year I won! The topic of my essay was the importance of attention to detail in the practice of interior design. Because this is related to yesterday’s post, here is my essay. The essay was also published in the Fall 2005 issue of Perspective Magazine, the IIDA’s professional magazine.