Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Alaskan Vampires and Assignments from hell.

Since the last 4 years have been a bust for trick-or-treaters for me and I didn't want to be stuck (again) with pounds of chocolate I took a page out of the Wiita playbook and made myself scarce for the evening.

However, because I did want to acknowledge my favorite day somehow (having to work and therefore unable to dress up) I and the dog went to see the film "30 Days of Night."

In case you are unfamiliar with the graphic novel, the premise is that during the 30 days without sun Barrow is cut off by and over-run with vampires.

I generally have low expectation for movies set in Alaska. Correction I have REALLY low expectations for movies set in Alaska, but hey vampires + Alaska... I will give it a try.

I was pleasantly surprised.

Things they did Right:

Movie Barrow didn't look like real Barrow, but it did look a reasonable amount like ye small isolated Alaskan town. Though frankly... it was cleaner then a lot of them.

Not to much exposition. See Distant Ship... see Man stumbling from distant ship. Message clear. Thank you for not giving us a 12 minute explanation of what was going on. I appreciate when directors don't treat me like an idiot.

North Slope Borough on the emergency vehicle... not North Slope County (which I have seen in some movie.)

Things that surprised me:

Josh Harnett didn't suck. He wasn't great... but I would even go so far as to say he did pretty good. I didn't like him in Pearl Harbor... so yeah....

The people reacted realistically and in human fashion. Some froze when frightened, some freaked out, and when someone did something really stupid it was for understandable reason (trying to save a family member or child...etc)

The vampires were not seductive or alluring. They were like the offspring of a shark and human. Visually and kinesthetically creepy, primeval and scary. They were NOT human, and that came across very well.

Oh... and the quisling... creepiest supporting character ever. EVER. Played by Ben foster. Who it turns out played Angel in the last X-man movie. (I didn't even recognize him.)

Things they did Wrong:
North Slope Police... not Barrow Sheriff. But, that was probably done for liability reasons. Likewise I suspect the "Alaska Fire Marshall" patch one of the characters wore. (With no State of Alaska patch visible.)

The trucks were all clean. In some cases immaculate. Riiiight.


So my latest Arch 121 assignment is ummm... yeah. This isn't isn't my Design class this is my weird Modern Architecture lecture class + design recitation thing.

We have to build a bridge 16" long and no less then 4" wide the entire length. It has to be able to support a 5 gallon bucket filled with 6" of water. I would guess that's about 10 lbs of weight but I will get bucket this weekend and find out.

Here's the kicker.

It can only be made out recycled or scavenged material.
It cannot contain any metal.
No piece of material can be longer then 6 inches, nor can any piece of material be thicker then 1/8".
No glue or melting strategies to form monolithic connections.


Anyway I have a plan. (Two plans actually.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

My dog is weird,

So I went to get kleenex to blow my nose and found this...

So you think she's trying to tell me the apartment is too hot?

Group Model Shot

What can I say. There it is in all it's glory.

They were taking some better pictures when I left for the night... but I figured feeding the dog was more important then preety pictures.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Cranky, day Two and Three. The GEEKS Revenge!

Okay, sadly not.

Saturday I worked 10-4, and then went to Romney. The same two people from yesterday were there, and no-one else showed up. We worked until about 8:30 and then knocked off for the night.

Sunday, we three agreed to meet at two, and when we got there it was decided the Steve sounded the most pissed off on the phone so it was his job to call people. His side of the dialogue would have done Machiavelli proud for being menacing without overtly threatening. Every one he actually reached on the phone showed up to help within 20 minutes. One of the people who showed up we sent home. He was actually sicker then Morgan and I. Also, he'd done the bulk of the building construction the first day while everyone else was arguing what type of board to use.

With enough people, and the with the damn contour lines finally getting easier (I figured out a faster and more accurate way of making them) it only took us 7 hours to complete it.

I'll try and post some pictures of it tomorrow I think I'm going to have to go andzzzz......... *drool*

Friday, October 26, 2007


So our group project is due Monday. 2 of the 16 people have to work tonight, everyone else was supposed to show up at 5:30 to work on the project.

Besides me... there were 2.

After the three of us worked for 6 hours straight we are 1/4 of the way complete with the topography. On the buildings maybe 1/2 complete.

I had the shrubbery done before we even started today.

I have 8:00 am class tomorrow, followed by work. I don't know how long I'll be working, but I hope by the time I get off work people have come in and made serious progress or I will be pissed.

Friday Work Session

Per request, here are some pictures of what we are working on today in class... and will be working on again in about 30 minutes when the other class gets out.

This one is annotated for you enjoyment. My TA was playing with camera and by some chance I got caught in the frame. You tell which desk belongs to the geek can't you?

My teammates... pondering building benches.

Closeup of the model interior, before contour lines are added.

Just one of the many banks of shrubbery that I am in charge of.

4 line Composition... the model

So here is my final model from the 4 line assignment. I wont go into the details of the rules I use to compose it, but everything is built to specific purpose. It's hard to see from this angle but most the elements sweep towards the center space.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Arch 151 Classroom

Please note the helpful arrows telling you where everything is.

Oh... and the only heat source is not the cardboard box, it is a tiny little heater in the corner that sounds like a sick chinchilla. You can't see it because of the box.

Sick and tired. Oh and some school and job stuff too.

I addition to having limited use of both my thumbs, I appear to be be having intermittent head cold issues. I'm not sneezing, and not coughing much but I have a sore throat and I randomly feel like me head is stuffed with wool.

This of course is being aggravated by the fact that my air-bed has leak. I thought I had tracked down and patched said leak but apparently I either didn't patch it well enough (unpossible) or I missed one... which given the acreage of the bed is not out of the realm of possibility. The bed is not normal air-mattress height, but is in fact effectively two mattresses. This increases the square footage to be searched for leaks by like 32 times. Really.

I have apparently slowed down the leaks with my patching that I can almost go 8 hours before the bed tries to swallow me whole.

Oddly enough I keep having dreams about sinking in quicksand... no wonder I'm tired.


The design project is full swing. It is both a group and individual assignment. The group portion, which we are exploring now is that each TA section of the class has to build a 1/4 scale model of the walkway area between Cheever (architecture) and Howard (music) halls. By my calculations the scale model will be slightly smaller then my car. But, I don't actually care because in the course dividing up tasks people noticed that 1) I have nice digital camera and 2) my scale figures are badass. All those years of miniature painting have paid off.
I was assigned the task of photo-documenting the building for reference (took less then an hour) and creating the 20 little wee men and women populating the scale model. I have 18 of them done allready and they aren't due for another week and a half. I further volunteered to "help" make the various shrubbery and trees since the guy it was assigned to shows up 1 in 4 classes.

After our scale model is coplete, individually we have to design an art instillation only using 3 8'x 20' sheets of 1 inch steel and 4 6'x6'x 6" peices of wood. We then are going to build scale models of them that will fit in our bigger scale models.

Finally will will draw plan, elevation, and section drawing of our instillation.


Today was my first day at Computer Troubleshooters of Bozeman. My new boss handed me a 600mhz iBook laptop with a dead hard-drive chuckled evilly and then left.

I wept.

You have to COMPLETELY dissemble EVERYTHING to get to the hard-drive. If I ever meet the designer of the laptop I will run him over with my car. Twice.

For those of you who aren't quite sure the implications of this... imagine trying to disassemble the worlds most complex wooden puzzle, with screw the size of seed beads and the screw holes are hidden inside of recesses you can only reach with a set of chop sticks.

This was slightly worse.

Other then that it was fine.

Monday, October 22, 2007

New assignment for Design

I don't know what it is, but the prof has dropped some tantalizing hints.

1) It will take us the entire remaining 5 weeks to accomplish
2) We will probably spend the first week arguing in groups. (which means it will be a group project)
3) We will apply what we have learned making models (so presumably a group model?)
4) Monday we are to show up with sketch-pad and raincoat in case it rains.

As a couple of dear friends said... "You'd think pants and pencils would be on the things to bring list."

Friday, October 19, 2007


So as I was finishing final assembly of my model I realized that I had made everything on the left 2 inches to long.

So I have to trim three major section without breaking anything... after being at this for the last 7 hours...


*Edit* Spelling bad at 1:00 am, but apparently better at 2:30 because I caught it later

Thursday, October 18, 2007

You may call me "lefty"

Cause I just cut the tip of my left thumb off.

Fortunately I only barely got to the meaty bits, so it was mostly skin.

I also managed not to bleed on my pristine final model.

1) holding your arm above your head for this long hurts worse then the cut.
2) sharp exacto blades hurt less then dull.
3) typing right-hand only is hard. When Ido type one-handed it's normally with my left...


I think the bleeding has stopped so time for bandages.

Compositional Epiphany

So as I trudged in the rain across campus an unexpected thing happened.

I stopped seeing the buildings. No longer did I see the big brick Reid Hall, instead I saw a pleasing composition of balanced repetitive elements subtly contrasting with it's asymmetrical wing.

Johnson hall also fell into pleasing suggestionof vertical elements outlining it's strong upward movement.

Montana Hall stayed a big victorian monster.

The revelation actually shocked me for a minute and I sat there getting soaked consciously shifting between seeing the buildings and seeing the composition of the buildings in the abstract.

It didn't work for all of them, but it was pleasing, weird , and unsettling all at once.

No altogether like suddenly being able to "see" music.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Monday, October 15, 2007

Studying, building, punching and growling

So it was time for our second Arch 121 test. 121 is the weird Architectural history/design class that I'm taking. The lecture portion covers modern buildings of importance from 1890-today. The recitation portion (taught by a TA) covers various design techniques and history.
I'm doing well on the recitation part, with B or B+ on all my assignments thus far. The lecture part... I enjoy but while taking the last test I suffered a brain freeze and forgot the location of darn near every building. As that was nearly 1/4 of the total points for the test... well I got a C, and not high C at that.

However, we had our second test today and I think I aced it. The only thing I think I got wrong is one of the architects is named Hans Sch______ and I forgot the last part of his last name. I scribbled something in there. I don't know if it was right, but I'm hoping it's close enough that I get credit.

Other then that I got every question on the test right, knew who built it, where, important facts about it and was able to draw it.

Feeling pretty happy about it.


The other 2/3 of my weekend I didn't spend studying I spent build study models for Arch 151. It was about 16 hours of work for the two big ones and maybe 4 for the smaller. We have to have a finished, craft-perfect model ready by Friday. (We actually get next weekend off!) I have some changes I want to make to my design so I need to generate another study model tonight and then harass my instructor with it tomorrow. Wednesday is a in class work day and we are expected to 1) have started our final model 2) bring it to class to work on.


Some of you may be aware that over the course of the years I have studied a couple different martial arts. The one I keep returning to because of my love for it, the fit it's philosophy it has with my own, and it's sheer practicality is Kenpo.

On Friday I discovered a small Kenpo school that offers one-on-one instruction in a relaxed atmosphere. My first class was Saturday (at 8:00 AM!) and I had a blast. Even for being as out of shape and out of practice as I am it started coming back pretty quick. However the 15 minutes of quick punch drills reminded me that I need to spend more time working on my cardio.

I've got a bonus session on Thursday night, but unless he has a student drop looks like Saturday 8:00 am is my time.


After Kenpo I went looking to see if any of the sporting good stores had punching bags. (One had a single abused display model.)

However, when I pulled up to the Sportsman's Warehouse Cinnamon noticed the Bronze Elk out front and started growling at it. She growled at it as I left the car. She was still growling at it when I came back to the car, and she growled at it as we drove away.

I guess she doesn't like bronze, because she didn't growl at any of the elk in Yellowstone.

Friday, October 12, 2007

4 Line Study. (Part 2)

So I took the 4 line study from before (earlier post) and turned it into 20 x 20" light/dark mass study. I also turned it into a 5 x 5" 3D model.

This weekend I have to produce another 5 x5" model and two 10 x 10" models of the same study, but different then the one I have done.

That model took me 12 hours to complete...

I don't think I get to sleep this weekend.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Yellowstone Teaser pictures.

Wednesday at Casa de Nelson.

This is a typical scene... midnight-ish at in my apartment.

You can see the dog has barely contained her enthusiasm.

If you are good, I may post additional pictures of my setup.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Design research...

So for my Arch 121 class we have reached the point of the "Modern" era.

We are dealing people like Kadinsky, Rochenko, and Rietvald.

Designers who "reject the sensual curves and their subjective associations"

Ummm... yeah.

Big colored blocks.

A quick informal poll revealed that no-one in the class likes it. I actually caused a little micro gripe-session that lasted until the TA arrived to hold class.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Further Line Studies

Have I mentioned that I hate hate hate Crow-quill pens... oh yes I do...

*Edited for misspelling. Good catch by the Pateresfamilias. (Who spends to much time spell checking my blog.)

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Rethinking japense...

So I have been toying with getting a Minor in Japanese studies whilst I complete my Arch degree.

I may be rethinking this.

Because of Kanji.

Kanji caused my brain to shut down.

Japanese have three writing systems. Hirigana is used for writing out Japanese words. Katakana is generally used to spell out foreign words and names. Both of them have distinct character alphabets but each letter represents a specific phonetic sound.

Kanji is different. Kanji is symbolic alphabet (like hieroglyphics) who's individual meaning changes depending on where it is relationship to other words. A kanji may have many different meanings and different pronunciations depending on the context. This context is dependent on it's position, how it is combined with other kanji, and whether it comes before or after other hiragana or katakana characters.

So for example one kanji can be read as both see/sei (in Gakusee) or as u (in Umareru) or as nama (in Nama biiru.)

Oh and that is all dependent on whether or not is in an on-reading (Chinese) or kun-reading (Japanese) mode. If the word is expressing Japanese concepts or words then you use kun-reading, otherwise you use on-reading.


If the word is part of a compound noun with another kanji then you always use the on-reading, and when the kanji is used as an adjective stem or verb stem then you use the the kun-reading.

Confused yet?

Well they sorta help you out by putting the appropriate hirigana or katakana pronunciation in little letters above the kanji. So in order for you have any hope of pronounceing it right you have to know the two other alphabets.

*Edit* Oh and lest I forget a single Sentance may contain ALL of these forms. I'll scan an example later.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Line Study Final

Before I go into to much detail let me say unequivocally I hate Crow-quill pens. They blotch, they drip, they break, they stutter and I have spent lots and lots of time with them over the past two weeks.

This is a 15 x 20" study of composition using nothing more then lines. It is a linear-datum composition with a skewed horizontal language.

Things I like about it. The proportions turned out well and in the initial studies leading up to it I had the diagonal a solid black line, and in the final I changed it to the same horizontal language as the rest, which ties it together.

Things I don't like. Some of the earlier studies I drew the lines with ruler and they were razor sharp. This was booth good and bad. I like the more organic feel, but I have less control over the damn pen then I would like so the lines are rougher because of incompetence not design.

Oh... and see that big heavy block right below the light block? That was not on purpose. That was the thrice-damned pen leaking ink which got wicked under my trace paper. I added that block to cover the huge blob of misshapen ink.

Everyone in my critique group loved it as contrast to the light block...

But we're done with it and I can throw my Crow-quill pen out the window...


What's that?

Our next assignment uses WHAT?

*mutter grumble swear*

Excuse me, I'll be outside looking for my pen.

*Edit apparently my random character used in the place of swearing genereted some HTML code that caused the paragraph to replicate. Who know I was so talented?