Within and Without

While I am, on the one hand, heartened by the rising popularity of Sustainability (with the capital “S”) within the building design (and, by extension, construction) industry, I am disappointed by the mechanical nature of the most prevalent rating systems that have emerged. LEED, in which one must accumulate “points” to reach a precious metal certification for one’s building, and the Living Building Challenge, in which designers and builders pursue “petals” (though it appears few, if any, buildings ever achieve more than three such “petals”) appear to be in an ever-increasingly competitive race to see which can be stricter, more exclusive, than its competitors (why are these organizations so fixed on the notion that they must compete with each other as opposed to working cooperatively for the betterment of humans in general?). The field is broadening, bringing in systems with different names, with slight nuances in their application and attitudes (take, for instance, the newish LEED certification WELL – which, at least, is a word – a separate rating system that LEED folded into its own format). Many of these names are made up of tortured English, stacking adjectives and multiple nouns together to create a new “supernoun” to describe the idea that one is pursuing. My initial complaint with BREEAM, which stands for (take a deep breath now): Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Model, is that, as a phrase, if not completely unintelligible, then at best tortured English phrases. Where do the creators of these systems come to decide these are the words they want to use to create a memorable [supposedly, anyway] acronym? Why are nouns piled on top of one another as if they’re adjectives and adverbs? For this example, there is only a single adjective in the last phrase. Where are the first three words headed? I suppose it might be a real phrase in English: building research establishment. But, as I just mentioned, it’s rather tortured (if not torturous to the reader) language. Whatever happened to grammar?

Before you, my dear reader, label me a “grammar Nazi,” I challenge you to come up with a definition for this phrase, this adjacency of words. Is it merely a pet peeve of mine? Indeed, it is. A big pet peeve of mine is the creation and subsequent use of words like probiotic. A compound can have probiotic properties. Sure, this one is fairly common these days, (perhaps even more so than digestive being shorthand for “digestive biscuit,” but the increasingly popular use of the word “probiotic” is driving me up a wall;  not literally (obviously), but figuratively, up a fucking wall. I suppose one could be referring to a cabal as “the building research establishment,” referring to a body of persons who appoint themselves “keepers of proper building research,” but even that sounds a bit ridiculous, doesn’t it? But I digress…

Yes, LEED, the acronym for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” isn’t all that bad, I suppose. It’s not even as bad as SNUBA®, which, as a trademarked term, takes its cue from SCUBA (coined by Jacques Cousteau, Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus is, at least, a real, descriptive phrase in English), from “Surface Nexus Underwater Breathing Apparatus.” Well, perhaps I can give that a go, since they were obviously trying to relate their system to an established acronym that people can already pronounce. However, the more acronyms I come across, particularly the newer ones, the less and less they make sense as language. English has become, over the course of my lifetime, and I’m not that old, a repository of phrases that form acronyms which are hardly straightforward anymore.

Well, that was a long enough diversion from the topic of “green” buildings.  The creative minds within architecture have been challenged to create “biomorphic” buildings.  Biomorphic, as I’ve come to understand it, means “to take one’s cue from living things.”   There are some aspects of different living creatures that lend themselves to mimicry, hence the word biomimicry, to describe designs that are directly influenced by animals, or, as I should say, nonhuman animals, since I believe that life is a continuum and that humans are part of that, as much as some would have us believe that homo sapiens is somehow “above” other species, “created” to “rule over” them, as proclaimed in the holy book of jewish and christian sects.

There are limits to which many of these adaptations can be applied to the artificial world in which humans have ensconced themselves.  Yes, velcro (a combination of velour and crochet) is a great invention, created out of observing the ability of small seeds, by making themselves “sticky,” to be carried long distances by animals before being deposited into new soil (preferably with little if any competition for resources, since plants don’t generally move from place to place by their own power).  However, there are some problems that humans face as the consequence of living modern lives, for which there is no natural parallel, but are invented to enable humans to live more comfortably.  Take Gore-tex®.  It’s a completely manufactured material.  Hats off to the family of inventors Gore!

Is it possible to create a truly biomorphic building, one that behaves much like a living thing in that it has the ability to actually grow?  I have heard of self-assembling materials that are under fairly recent study as a means of sequestering carbon, and I would be thrilled to learn that this has made itself into a building (construction) application.  The only drawback is that I believe a lot of such processes are time-consuming, and thus not as applicable to our current drive to make things operate and come online at an ever faster pace.  Could we make a return to living in the trees, but ones of our own design?  This is something that remains to be seen.



Well, What Do You Know?

via Daily Prompt: Miraculous

I’ve been told that my survival from my automobile accident in2006 was miraculous.  I believe it really says something about the state of modern medicine that people can survive the kinds of trauma that once would have killed them, if not immediately, then through ineptitude. But inept is probably not the correct word, because it would not have been due to neglect that my aorta probably would have ruptured and killed me.  It was lack of knowledge and the ability to treat trauma in a manner sufficiently such that the body can continue to function much in the way it had previously.

I don’t know if my personality has been altered to any great degree, but the stint in the hospital, away from the everyday life that continued around me, robbed me of experiences that I would have had, replaced by experiences that I would never have gone through had I not been through the trauma.  I don’t even know whether the lapses in my memory are strictly due to brain damage;  could just be the way I’m ageing.  Also, the accident probably precipitated other events, or perhaps enabled the continuance of my marriage, which was, apparently, already rocky at the time of the accident.  But in the long run, it only served to delay the inevitable breakup of that relationship. C’est la vie.



Excitement and Satisfaction

via Daily Prompt: Bliss

I feel excited and much more relaxed than I have been in the past few weeks.  I’d been anticipating a job interview at what appears to be a wonderfully-run architectural firm in San Francisco.  The Principal is a woman, and the firm is made up of 25 people at this point.  They’re interviewing for additional people (plural!), and so placed an ad online.  I was lucky to come across it, as the nature of their work, as well as their work ethic, is “right up my alley,” so to speak.

The firm designs primarily civic buildings and nonprofit (low-income) housing.  Although they’re slightly recession-proof, by nature of having a lot of government contracts, the three of us (there were two interviewing me:  Principal and Partner) all expressed some worry about current and future actions of the Rump Regime, and how they may immediately directly effect public investments.  We commiserated over last year’s presidential election, but expressed cautious optimism for the midterms, in which we’re hoping the Dems will slaughter (virtually, if not, unfortunately, literally) the Repugnicans.  The defeat of Moore in Alabama was a clear sign of discontent, and a referendum on the Rump Regime, for the Rump clearly favored his fellow rapist.

We discussed my availability, and I told them that I would not be relocating to the Bay Area until June, when Kat graduates from high school.  They understood perfectly and reassured me that I was making the right decision to wait instead of pulling Kat out of school so close to completion.  They said to keep in touch, and I very much intend to do so.  In fact, I’ve already sent them a message proposing that I start remotely, if such a thing were possible and practical, before coming to the office this summer.  I’ll report their response, and my actions, in future posts.

Kat and I went to Kitchens for Good this morning for a Community Cooking Day.  I went over an initial menu with the volunteer coordinator, Nina, and then went into one of the walk-in refrigerators to see what produce and other ingredients were available.  Since Nina found corn tortillas, we decided on fajitas.  Originally, I thought to make chicken fajitas, since they had tens of pounds of donated chicken, but it was still not defrosted, so we went with the a veggie meal:  veggie fajitas, with mushrooms, the smallest tomatilloes I have ever seen, yellow onions, tomatoes, and zucchini.  I took out spices for it, and most were used; they left out the garlic (obviously, I wasn’t watching over them to supervise their choice of spices), but used the cumin, celery seeds, salt, pepper, and chili powder.  I helped to chop up yams, which we roasted with cinnamon, brown sugar, and allspice (the apples were, unfortunately, left out of the roasting pans even though they had been cubed).  I chopped the leftover broccolini that was left over from a catering gig they had yesterday.  The broccolini was added to very narrow (young) asparagus that Kat and one other volunteer chopped into inch- to inch-and-a-half long segments for the second side.

We packaged up the meals and completed 96 meals (12 trays holding 8 meals each).  Nice weekend activity.  Since it’s on Sunday, Kat said that she’d be able to come with me more this semester, or at least before the second semester begins in February.


Savory Muffin Recipe!

I’m in a culinary mood this morning.  For breakfast, I prepared these for Kat before taking her to take the ACT at Rancho Bernardo High School:

Muffins with Cheddar and Chives


1 ½ c. a-p flour

1 t. salt

1 t. baking soda

1 t. baking powder

several chives, chopped (about ¼-1/3 cup, packed)

2/3-3/4 c. shredded sharp cheddar

1 large egg

¼ c. vegetable oil

¾-1 ¼ c. milk (I use cashew or almond, but this works with dairy milk, as well)

1 t. lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375°F

Mix dry ingredients, cheddar, and chives in a large bowl, stirring to combine.

Beat egg thoroughly, then add oil and beat together to blend.

Add lemon juice and ¾ c. milk. Mix together, then add to dry ingredients all at once. If the batter is too dry, add enough milk to give it a good texture (it can be relatively dry or fluid, but that will only determine how long they need to bake).

Scoop by the 1/3 c. into silicone-lined muffin tin.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until there are tinges of brown on muffin tops.

Remove muffins from oven, and allow to cool for one minute.

Place in tea-towel-lined bowl and wrap with towel to keep warm. Serve with lots of butter and coffee or tea.



To the Gills!

via Daily Prompt: Gorge

I have been trying not to consume so much at any given meal that I feel ill, or even uncomfortable.  It helps that I’m trying to eat more slowly, as well, in order for my brain to catch up with my digestion and not keep telling me to eat when I’m actually already comfortably sated.  Of course, this can be applied to other indulgences, as well, including drinking, smoking, gambling, all those “sins” that we are warned against.

Not having an addictive personality (or at least having outgrown it) allows me to be much more focused on the task at hand, even when the task is as dull as studying for an exam for which one only needs the ability to memorize things.  It’s exactly the type of exam I detest, for there is no learning involved, merely repetitive rote drilling.  That is what is so difficult for me right now.  I want to understand the reasons why the rules are set forth as such, so that it’s not merely arbitrary…

But, alas, so many things in life are arbitrary, like some people’s tastes in various arts.  The genre where this seems to come out most frequently (at least in my life) is music.  We all have our tastes in music, and most of us have a range of likes (and dislikes), with reasons why we like one thing over another, or dislike something completely.  We end up with a relationship with our choices, for the tunes and lyrics evoke emotions that we find pleasant, or at least provocative (in a good way, if such a thing is possible).  Some like the mix and play of contrapuntal music;  others base their selections purely on lyrics;  yet others enjoy the flow of wordless music.

This afternoon, I participated in a protest at a retail outlet for a national telephone/internet service provider, in order to call attention to the potential destruction of the Internet as it has been developed, as a free space for the exploration of ideas, with little hierarchy.  Internet service providers (ISPs for short)  can potentially place a monetary value to certain ideas, and therefore charge customers according to the sites they (the customers) visit and, more importantly, frequent.  Imagine how much money Spectrum (as Time Warner has rebranded itself) could make if it charged a penny for every Facebook visit made through its lines?  Or it (in this case, Time Warner, but could just as easily be Verizon or AT&T) might feel perfectly within its “rights” (because apparently, entities other than persons have rights, as judged by the Supreme Court in a terrible decision) to block access to political speech that does not agree with its owners’.

The air is dry.  Very dry.  My skin is telling me it’s horribly dry here, even for San Diego.  I will quench it in the shower before going to bed tonight.  Hopefully, it will feel better in the morning.



The Color of Things

via Daily Prompt: Patina

I like the appearance of aged copper and aged bronze.  Each metal takes on a certain patina through the process of oxidation.  A great example of this is the Statue of Liberty, in New York’s harbor, at the mouth of the Hudson.  Here’s a bit of trivia:  Liberty Island, on which the Statue of Liberty sits, is actually nearer the New Jersey shore than New York’s…

The reason why pennies, ostensibly made of copper, do not show the same patina is that any oxidation is rubbed off – on hands, on clothing, etc.  However, I think the real reason is that the copper used in pennies is, in fact, an alloy, so that there’s not enough of it in a pure state to actually oxidize.  That, or whatever it is in a penny (I forget the metal that makes up the interior of the current penny, but I think it’s zinc) prevents it, from a metallurgical point of view, from oxidizing.

I also like the color of aged cherrywood.  When finished with wax or oil, it evolves into a rich red that is only matched by mahogany in beauty.  I have a box (that I use for storing paints) that I made using cherrywood as the base material.  The removable shelves inside are made of ash and maple, wonderfully complementary in hue.  I finally completed inserting the strips of veneer on the lid only a few years ago, after having kept the box, wrapped in newsprint, for the years since I started it in college (half a life ago at this point).  But now, complete, it sits atop a cabinet in our living room, next to a box I made of Maple and beech.  The cherrywood box holds my tubes of oils and brushes, sticks of Cray-Pas, a small bottle of linseed oil, and a box of watercolor paper cards.  The other box holds my acrylics and watercolors, a small Windsor-Newton travel watercolor set that was a gift, and more watercolor cards, all waiting to be turned into paintings and gifted.  Might make use of some of them at some point.  I have a can of turpentine under the kitchen sink, but the notion of having to smell the turpentine for any length of time is not terribly attractive.  Oils are really for large, open spaces in which there is sufficient airflow to make the odor not quite so oppressive.

Worn leather can take on a nice patina, as well, whether from being oiled purposefully, or just being exposed to the natural bodily oils of its owner/wearer, especially around collars and sleeve cuffs…





via Daily Prompt: Tenterhooks

I was happy when I first learned the origin of the phrase “to be on tenterhooks,” as I love word origins and language (even though the only language I speak fluently is American English).  I have a friend who studies languages and has been learning them throughout his adulthood, making him the most successful polyglot I know.

I will make this entry brief, as my right wrist hurts due to an injury when I fell a few weeks ago in an asphalt parking lot.  Because I was in such a hurry, I failed to see the wheelstop, which caught my foot and sent me sprawling onto the not altogether dry pavement.  My worst injury appears not to be the bruise which continues to discolor my left knee, but some kind of internal injury because of the way I fell onto my hand and allowed it to slide along the pavement a few inches before stopping my body’s forward downward motion.  I will contact my GP’s office in the morning to make an appointment to see if there’s anything to be done for it.


And You Are How Old?

via Daily Prompt: Age

Oh, it comes up now and again.  And then I’m reminded of how some people age faster than others, growing gray at the temples as they reach adulthood, their skin forming smiling wrinkles from youthful happiness…

I’m not often prompted for my age, but when asked, I answer honestly and straightforwardly, since I have nothing to hide, and nothing to lose.  If I appear young for my calendar age, that is only because my wrinkles don’t make themselves apparent at first glance, and my gray hairs do a good job of keeping themselves relatively well-hidden.

However, other signs of age are not to be put off:  thinning hair, mostly, in my case, as well as signs of an ageing body, with its skin not quite as supple as it once was;  the loss of whatever “babyfat” that once kept my face youthfully round(er).  The fat of adulthood sits differently on my bones and multiplies my chins.

But I am not complaining about the ageing process, as I realise we all go through it, at varying degrees and in different ways.  I have friends who are almost fully gray now, though they’re scarcely older than I am.  In contrast, while my hair remains mostly its original color, its thinning is worrisome to me.

There are other ways to think about the word “age.”  One might be tempted to find a meaning in it related to certain social phenomena, as in the current “New Age” in which we are living and sometimes refers to a state of consciousness that some find enlightening and others droll.  I, myself, see the “New Age” movement as another means of framing reality, how one chooses to see life and other people, whether ’tis gentler and kinder, or merely tired and worn-out, non-energetic.

I’ve considered to what age I would like to live.  I certainly wish to live long enough to see certain events take place, such as certain life events in K’s life, as she is almost 30 years my junior.  At the same time, I don’t know if I will want to outlive too many of my peers and family, but since I am among the youngest in my immediate familial generation, this is a very real probability.  Among my Facebook friends, however, since many of them are people I’d first met in primary and secondary school, I am one of the older members, my birthday being in January.  I believe I would like to live well enough so that my chronological age may be well-advanced before my physical well-being deteriorates.  I would like to live fully, and meet death with serenity, having lived a satisfying life.






The Daily Prompt for today was Snippet.

Bits of conversations past come wandering through my brain as I find it increasingly difficult to study.  I sit, with my earbuds, in a somewhat noisy coffee shop in a popular part of town, straining to listen to the lesson, which, although I have the volume maximized, is still faint.  I think it must be the website, as the earbuds, when tested, sound just fine.  I have the impression that most people just use the speakers on their computers to listen to lessons, though I cannot imagine why that should make a difference.

I have a job interview this afternoon.  That is also on my mind.  Last night, I forwarded the interview invitation to Peter.  We discussed the potential job interview in San Francisco, for which I would need to fly to San Francisco for at least a day.  This morning, Peter told me that he will be going up to meet potential investors mid-December, so I sent an email to my contact at the firm asking if they could help defray the cost of flying to San Francisco, since I will be staying at Raul and Beth’s with Peter and therefore would not be incurring too much additional cost (except food & incidentals).  I await their reply anxiously…




Black Coffee?

via Daily Prompt: Percussive

Having a strong impact;  of or relating to percussion instruments (music).

Repeated percussive explosions of carpet-bombing has been used as a method for clearing enemy soldiers from forested land.  Since the pilots are not aiming at a specific target, they fly over and bomb everything, in and out of sight.

I can only imagine the impact this has on normal (read:  naturally occurring) forest wildlife.  Not only is life disrupted in the immediate sense, animals and trees indiscriminately killed and maimed, but the destruction has longer impacts on the ecosystem by potentially disrupting the flow of energy, though I suppose if all levels of life suffer from equal effect, then the surviving animals will once again form stable, if smaller, proportions and numbers, hopefully to fully occupy the forest once again.

The word itself brings up violent imagery because of the suddenness of what it describes.  It implies an almost staccato beating, so that I hear a drumroll in the word’s presence.

More pleasantly, I had a slightly percussive event occur at last night’s dinner.  We had been expecting a small group of four, but ended up with a group of seven, as two members appeared, kind of on the dot, one of them accompanied by a date, no less, which proved a further pleasant surprise, as I’m not used to meeting potential significant others, at least not at an early stage of courtship.

The word “courtship” brings up thoughts of an old television show called The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, an early role played by a later-famous actor whose name just escaped me…

Ron Howard, at an earlier age than even Happy Days, made his directorial debut in early shorts “Old Paint” and “Deed of Daring Do,” back in 1969!  At least that’s what IMDb tells me.

I think that is enough of a string of non-sequiturs to start a foggy Sunday morning.