Monday, November 5, 2012

Raymond Loewy 1893 - 1986

Today we celebrate the birthday of design giant Raymond Loewy, one of my all-time favorite designers.

I discovered Loewy when I was in high school. I was into cars, and became aware that he had done a lot of the styling for Studebaker in the '50s, so I got some books on him from the library to learn more. I had been raised with a healthy amount of respect for the maxim, "if it ain't broke don't fix it" but Loewy had the opposite approach: that there wasn't a single thing that existed that couldn't be improved. His books, Never Leave Well Enough Alone and Industrial Designwere a huge influence on me as a young man contemplating a design career.

Loewy was a design powerhouse, helping to create the modern look of America in the 20th Century. He designed everything from household objects to corporate logos, cars for Studebaker (including both the iconic bullet-nose look from the early '50s and later their Avanti), locomotives, and even conceptual designs for some NASA projects.

I wish I had more of my own images of Loewy's work but alas, this is a glaring hole in my image library. Instead I will link to other sources and let you check them out for yourself. (I really hate to post others' photos here, and don't have time today to sort out permissions, etc.)

Here is a general image search under Raymond Loewy, to give you a general flavor.

Here is the classic bullet-nose Studebaker.

Don't forget Fozzie Bear's bullet nose Studebaker (from Muppet Wikia)

Link to the Studebaker Museum, South Bend, Indiana.

Loewy's design for the Avanti, including lots of great drawings.

Also, there is a lot of stuff (largely ceramics but some other really cool things as well) designed by Raymond Loewy available on Ebay here.

Before writing this, I didn't realize the extent to which the Estate of Raymond Loewy was active today, but there is which claims to be "the official site of Raymond Loewy", as well as which seems to be the home of Loewy Design of Marietta, Georgia.  In addition to these two, there is also, which appears to be the efforts of Loewy Design to found a museum around Loewy's work. I'm glad to see that they are actively pursuing the promotion of his legacy, and would be very excited to see them build a museum!

If you are interested in 20th Century industrial design and/or automotive design, then you might also want to learn more about the following related designers:  Henry Dreyfuss, Norman Bel Geddes, Walter Dorwin Teague, Virgil Exner, Brooks Stevens, Zora Arkus-Duntov, Harley Earl. Not all of these Wikipedia entries are very elaborate, but could be a good starting point for more research. There are probably a lot of really great used books out there on these designers, that could be had for cheap at

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Honoring Los Angeles' Sixth Street Bridge

Among Los Angeles' least-celebrated treasures are her bridges. Not that they don't have their admirers, but the glorious concrete and steel spans that cross the Los Angeles River, as well as her tributary the Arroyo Seco, just don't tend to get a lot of attention. They seem to do a lot of filming down at the bridges and along the river, but nobody talks about the bridges much. There has been an exception lately, which is the Sixth Street Bridge, only the attention it has been receiving isn't exactly the good kind.

Apparently, the concrete of the Sixth Street Bridge has been diagnosed as having Alkali-Silica Reaction, or
ASR. This is a chemical reaction among the concrete's ingredients that eventually causes the concrete to expand. This expansion creates internal pressures inside the concrete, which increase until the concrete starts breaking apart. (Mind you, not breaking apart as in exploding, but more like crumbling.)

About a year ago, the L.A. City Council voted to replace the bridge, and earlier this week they announced the winning entry from among 3 teams that participated in the competition. There is a YouTube channel at this link, where you can see short videos of all 3 competition entries.  The 3 teams were Parsons Brinckerhoff, AECOM, and HNTB with Michael Maltzan. HNTB/Maltzan won, and you can read more about the new bridge over at CurbedLA.

Back when I worked at Studio Works, we were just a stones throw from the 6th St. Bridge. I made many a trip across it at lunch time, for the excellent tacos at Carnitas Michoacan. It's just across the river, about a block or two beyond the end of the bridge on the left side, corner of Whittier and Soto. Those have to be some of the best tacos in L.A.  If you look closely at the taco stand, you can see that the place used to be a filling station. Look up above the counters where you order, and you can see the garage doors still up there in the ceiling. But I digress (and I'm making myself hungry!)

Since we've been having some pretty outrageously bright and clear mornings of late, and you never know when the next 7.0 is going to come rumbling through and reduce our beloved viaduct to a pile of steel and rubble, I went out and spent some time around, under, and on the bridge. I was reminiscing, and studying, as well as just enjoying. I'm not quite ready to mourn, but I will when the time comes for that.

I started off by checking out the bridge from the east side, and eventually made my way across the 7th Street Bridge, which is the next one to the south. I got out and walked back out on the 7th St. Bridge and took some pictures looking north. Click to embiggen.

The distinguishing feature of the Sixth Street Bridge is its mirrored pair of eccentric steel arches that carry the roadway across the L.A. River. The vast majority of the bridge is concrete, and just that center portion employs steel as the primary structural element. It is this hybrid combination of materials that makes the bridge so unique. There are a lot of concrete bridges out there, and a lot of steel ones. It's not uncommon to see a steel bridge with concrete abutments or piers, but you rarely see the two materials integrated so artfully into one structure.

In plan, the bridge isn't a straight line. It bends in the middle, so that the western flank is nearly straight east-west, but the eastern flank aims slightly south-easterly. This heightens the visibility of the steel arches as you approach from the west, since they are not in a straight line with your direction of travel.

You can see this in the image below, taken from alongside the western approach:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Garden Make-out Bench

Between March and September of 2009, I wrote a few blog posts under the Parson Studio Group banner, before I launched Creatures of Prometheus as my main blogging platform. Since the old PSG web site is now being completely re-branded and re-designed, and the old blog will go away when my new website launches, I will be occasionally re-releasing some of those posts here over the coming months. 

This post originally appeared on the Parson Studio Group blog on September 23, 2009.
I was recently approached by a collector who bought 2 of my pieces last November, when I participated in the Arroyo Artists' Collective fall show.  Said individual indicated that he was going to a wedding and wanted a piece he could give as a gift, and wanted to know what I had in stock.  As it turns out, he also prefers my furniture unfinished, that is to say without any paint or coating.  He would rather let it rust naturally.
Since I didn't have anything that wasn't already powder coated, I seized the opportunity to make a new piece and innovate a little bit.  (Especially since I had the idea for this all worked out in my mind, and had been wanting to try it.)
I had these two steel tube remnants that were already cut to this shape when I got them:

And I had the idea to do a bench like this:

So it was a pretty simple matter to weld the center seam and add legs.

The biggest question I had was whether or not it would need a fifth leg at the apex, which it did.  I thought it probably would, but wasn't sure.  I also thought that if it were needed, the fifth leg might bother me.  As it turns out, it doesn't bother me at all.
I did, however, put myself through a major aesthetic inquiry to make sure I was satisfied with this style of leg for this object.  I actually debated myself and agonized over it for the better part of an afternoon.  I almost changed them to boomerangs at the last minute, but that will be another bench for another day.
The last step was to add the chrome feet.

When I first sat on it, I realized that the size and angle of the bench give it a really intimate feel.  If you share it with someone else, you aren't just sitting next to them, you are actually slightly facing them, and at pretty close range, with your legs more or less sharing the same space.  With the right companion, it pretty much lends itself to (if not downright encourages) putting your arm around them, and getting in close for a little smoochin'.  Especially if you find yourselves sitting under a shady tree, in a partly-concealed corner of a secret garden somewhere (as opposed to the concrete driveway in front of my shop, where these shots were taken.)
So, I think it is the perfect wedding gift!  Cheers to the newlyweds!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Welcoming Endeavour to the City of Angels

Every New Year's Day I enjoy getting up early and watching the B2 Stealth Bomber do its annual Rose Parade flyover, to kick off the New Year. Today I looked to the skies over Northeast L.A. and the San Gabriel Valley for an even more dramatic spectacle. Space Shuttle Endeavour, flying piggyback on a Boeing 747, did an extended tour all around L.A.'s far-flung airspace, paying tribute to places and institutions that were instrumental in its development and missions over the years, and greeting the city that will be its new permanent home.

There had been considerable buzz about it all week, and many people made plans to go watch it from various vantage points around L.A. My sister Allison, who lives over on the West Side, considered going up to the Getty Center to watch for it from there, but ended up finding a parking structure rooftop right in her neighborhood with clear views of the area. I had a meeting with a consultant here at the home office (I have a great dining room table that doubles as a conference table at the drop of a hat) and couldn't get away to go sky-watching at any of the announced flyover locations. Furthermore, I recently ordered a new plasma cutter for my shop and was expecting it to be delivered today, with signature required. Being pretty much stuck here at the house, the best I could do was head up to the roof after my meeting ended.  Little did I know, I would have one of the best seats in town!

As my meeting was wrapping up, Allison texted me. The timestamp was 11:53 and she wrote "On its way. Spotted over Malibu." I was searching for my camera, scrambling to change my shoes to something more pitched-shingle-roof friendly, and unhooking the screen off of my bedroom window, when I heard a loud aircraft in the sky. As I scrambled up from the lower roof to the upper one (going where I had never gone before - kind of thrilling and terrifying at the same time) I saw that my neighbor was up on his roof too. He said that he had glimpsed it just then, in the western sky, but it had banked and flown back away again. It was probably passing by Griffith Park and the Hollywood Sign at that point, but we weren't sure where it went after that.

The reports were that it was supposed to do a flyover up at JPL, which is just northeast of us, so we continued to watch and wait. Several minutes passed. Then we heard it again. Suddenly they emerged in the western sky, coming right towards us.


I took about a zillion pictures, and tried to shoot some video too, but I just wasn't any good, stability-wise, and I'm afraid the video isn't blog-quality (unless one's goal is to spread nausea among your readership, which mine is not).

Pretty soon they were right over us.  I heard on the news that one of the fighter jets was filming it and the other was the security detail.

They went pretty far to the east, and I'm guessing they may have passed over CalTech before making a hard left, hooking back around and up towards JPL.

Then she flew back towards the west again. The 747 and Endeavour looked great framed against the mountain range.

Then she lifted and banked, and came back our direction, heading towards the southeast.

We got an awesome profile view as she departed for points south, possibly Disneyland, which I heard was on the list of flyover locations.

I love that you can make out the NASA logo on the tail fin of the 747.

Welcome to Los Angeles, Endeavour!  I'll be in the crowd cheering you on next month when you make your way to the California Science Center!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

John Lautner Tour: Schwimmer House, 1982

Note: Nearly a year ago, there was a big to-do for John Lautner's 100th Birthday (and deservedly so, I must say). I toured 4 of his houses in L.A. and intended to blog about them all, but only 2 posts got finished.  The third post was started but never completed; now I have finished it.

I didn't want to completely re-write the beginning, so I am just appending this note at the top.

To see all my posts on Lautner, click here.

Thank you, Jenn.

The final round of layoffs at Keating Khang had happened in January or February of 2009, and I was casting about, trying to figure out what to do next. My work had been very demanding, including a lot of travel, and suddenly it was like coming up for air and having all of this free time. So I started looking around online to see what other Objectivists were doing and what kind of community might be out there.  I had joined facebook in 2008, but hadn't significantly expanded my online social circles much beyond my real-life friends.

I think the first O'ist bloggers I became aware of were Diana and TreyI would see this weekly Objectivist blog roundup mentioned on their blogs, and I gradually started getting to know of all these other bloggers, and sort of one-way getting to know them personally, as happens when you start following other peoples' blogs. And there were a lot of them, a whole online community of them just like I hoped there might be. I wanted to join in on all this cool interesting stuff that was going on, so I launched CofP in early 2010. 

Rational Jenn was always, and continues to be, one of my favorite blogs. I that's because she has such a great way of telling a story, plus those Casey kids are just so freakin cute! I think also because she reminds me in many ways of my sister, Emily. But now that I know Jenn in real life, I admire her even more than I did when she was just a famous internet personality who lived clear across the country. 

So, thank you, Jenn.  Thank you for running the Round Up all this time, creating this regular way for lots of interesting people to get together and share their ideas and thoughts. Thank you for introducing me to so many awesome people, both online and IRL. (You can keep doing that, btw.)

Thank you for inspiring me in so many ways.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Death of a Crock Pot

It feels like the end of an era.

My trusty old Crock Pot has finally bit the dust.  I don't know exactly what happened, but this morning while putting it away I noticed a hairline crack extending clear across the bottom of the heavy ceramic bowl and up the side.  The crack may have been there for some time, and might even be perfectly harmless, but I'm not particularly inclined to continue using it in its present state.  

It had been on a bit of a slow decline for a while now.  A couple of years ago I made the mistake of putting the lid in the dishwasher, causing the knob to warp. Then the screw that held the (still somewhat functional) warped knob in place, removed for cleaning, went into the garbage disposal, thus dispensing with any further use of the knob. This was provided an unexpected improvement in the form of a steam vent, via the now permanently exposed hole in the lid. I used it this way for a while, until I dropped and shattered the glass lid, sometime earlier this year.  

After that I was using a salad-sized plate for a lid, but now, finally, it's time for a whole new unit.

The Crock Pot was a gift from my mom in the early 2000's. I used it only occasionally before going paleo. After that transition, it became an indispensable part of my kitchen arsenal, and throughout 2011 it got its heaviest workout ever.  At the beginning of that year, I used it to make lots of tendon stew and bone broths while I was recovering from surgery on a tendon in my left hand. Later that fall, it ran nearly constantly, stewing up pig feet, which were the only thing I could get my dear old hound Todd to eat in his final stages of terminal cancer. I nearly threw it out after that, but in time the unpleasant associations with that episode faded to where I could make use of it once again, without being upset by it.

And so now, having properly eulogized my cherished slow cooker, it goes off to the rubbish bin, to be returned to the earth whence its raw materials originated. I will toss it into the black bin with a salute of "Thank Capitalism" in my heart.

I've decided to upgrade with my next slow cooker purchase. The old one was a basic round 4-quart model; I think I will replace it with a 6-quart oval one. I was a bit surprised by all the choices available on Amazon, and after a bit of looking it has come down to a choice between these:
Rival Crock Pot, 6-qt. with locking lid, $37.99 on

Hamilton Beach, 6-qt. with locking lid, programmable timer,
and temperature probe, $49.99 on

Cuisinart, 6.5-qt. fancy rectangular slow cooker, $99.95 on

I suspect I'll end up with the Hamilton Beach, even though it seems like a betrayal to not stick with the Rival Crock Pot brand. I like that it's programmable, with start time and stop time; it has a warming mode to keep your dinner hot without overcooking it; and I really like the temperature probe for roasts and such.  All that for fifty bucks seems like a pretty good deal, and Rival doesn't have one with the temperature probe at all, that I can find. The Cuisinart looks great (a very important consideration in my household), but has almost half as many 1-star reviews on Amazon as it has 5-star reviews, and that's a terrible ratio.

Thankfully, I had just finished a big batch of carnitas when the crack was discovered. I should be up and running with the new 'Pot by next week. As sad as I am to see the old Crock Pot go, I recently discovered nirvana in the form of braised lamb shanks (at the Elephant Bar in Burbank), and can't wait to get my hands on my new, bigger, programmable, temperature-probing slow cooker and give them a try at home!

Thus, the end of an era, and the beginning of a new one.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Objectivist Round-up for June 28, 2012

Welcome to the Objectivist Round-up for June 28, 2012.  This is my first time hosting the weekly carnival of articles on various topics by Objectivist bloggers, and I'm glad I got to play host before the carnival finally winds down in a few weeks.  I want to give a big shout out to Rational Jenn and a big thank you to her, for organizing and running the Round-up.

This is also the last Round-up before Independence Day. Even though it's nearly a week away, I'll take this opportunity to present a quote on the Founding Fathers and their unique achievement, from the book The Ominous Parallels by Leonard Peikoff, as quoted in the Ayn Rand Lexicon. This quote takes on a particular resonance given this morning's announcement of the Supreme Court upholding the Obamacare individual mandate, about which I'm sure there will be ample commentary in next week's carnival.
Throughout history the state had been regarded, implicitly or explicitly, as the ruler of the individual—as a sovereign authority (with or without supernatural mandate), an authority logically antecedent to the citizen and to which he must submit. The Founding Fathers challenged this primordial notion. They started with the premise of the primacy and sovereignty of the individual. The individual, they held, logically precedes the group or the institution of government. Whether or not any social organization exists, each man possesses certain individual rights. And “among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”—or, in the words of a New Hampshire state document, “among which are the enjoying and defending life and liberty; acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; and in a word, of seeking and obtaining happiness.”
And now, without further ado, I present this week's Objectivist Round-up:

Tim Cheadle presents Design Thinking - Tim Cheadle posted at Tim Cheadle, saying, "A brief recap of my design talk with Tori Press, along with the slides we presented."

Paul McKeever presents "Bully": the new "Nazi" posted at Paul McKeever, saying, "Prepare to see the "Bully" card played more an more frequently in a place near you."

Darius Cooper presents Country Shares of World GDP posted at Practice Good Theory, saying, "I present some graphs showing relative GDPs of various countries"

Diana Hsieh presents NoodleCast #143: Q&A Radio Podcast: Spanking, Parenting, Cheating, and More posted at Philosophy in Action, saying, "In Sunday's episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I answered questions on corporal punishment of kids, parenting as a central purpose, compartmentalized cheating, something greater than yourself, and more."

Rachel Miner presents Lindamood Bell Experience posted at The Playful Spirit, saying, "Lindamood Bell is an individualized, intensive therapy that helps students with very specific language issues. In this post, I write about my experience using one of their programs. Due primarily to the high cost, it was a decision that took several years to make, but it was a positive experience that other parents may find valuable. They also work with adults."

Paul Hsieh presents Backdoor Euthanasia in the UK? posted at We Stand FIRM, saying, "A UK neurologist reports that British patients with treatable conditions are being pushed against their will into "care pathways" for the terminally ill."

Roberto B Sarrionandia presents Andrew Brown wins 1/9th of a free coffee posted at Roberto Sarrionandia, saying, "Is the Guardian giving out free coffee to journalists who smear Ayn Rand?"

John Drake presents Starting a Project with Zero Resources posted at Try Reason!, saying, "Even if you don't have the time or money, it is possible to start big projects. You just have to get REALLY creative."

Rational Jenn presents Tonight! posted at Rational Jenn, saying, "Kelly and I are appearing Wednesday evening on the Philosophy in Action radio show to discuss Parenting without Punishment. By the time the carnival appears, the radio show will already have happened. But if you missed it, you can catch the recording at the Philosophy in Action website."

Earl Parson presents Strange in a Good Way posted at Creatures of Prometheus, saying, "I've finally taken the plunge and rented a workspace outside my home. I'm now the resident architect at Strangeways Academy!"

That concludes this edition. The next edition of the Objectivist Round-up will be hosted over at Three Ring Binder. Submit your blog article to using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Strange in a Good Way

For the first time ever, in the entire history of the Universe as I have known it, I have a place outside my house where I can go for no other purpose than to do my own work.

My work.

I can't tell you what a thrill this is.

My friend Ana posted on facebook several weeks ago about an upcoming vacancy at Strangeways Academy. Strangeways is a shared studio-workspace in Chinatown that she started with some other graphic designers a few years ago. It's not fancy; it's a small storefront with 6 identical desks, behind each of which is a single Homasote panel for pinning stuff up on the wall. In the front there is a conference table, but that area converts, via some clever moving walls, into a gallery space where they have exhibitions from time to time.

I had gone to some of their gallery openings and events in the past, and had looked longingly at Ana's previous facebook postings of vacancies there. Finally, the timing was perfect. My work has picked up, and and the summer is turning out to be pretty busy for me. In fact, I'm relatively confident that things are even somewhat secure (to whatever extent that word has any meaning at all these days), probably though the end of the year (fingers crossed). So, when Ana posted about the upcoming vacancy, back in May, I expressed interest.  Then I had to go out of town and the whole thing was back-burnered for a bit.

After a few weeks went by and the workspace was still available, I met her down in Chinatown for lunch one afternoon and we went over the particulars. The next step was a meet-n-greet lunch with the other studiomates, which happened on Friday, June 8th.  The following Monday I moved in.  

Some of the Strangeways folk also teach, and some also have other full- or part-time employment or consulting they do elsewhere, so it's rarely a full house. I generally have the place to myself, especially in the mornings.

I'll continue to settle in there over the coming weeks.  I plan to bring these shelves that I made for behind my desk, and I'll populate my Homasote panel with some inspiring images and such. Even without those things, having a place without the distractions of home, where I can just focus on my work, is bliss.  And, I can walk from my house down to the Highland Park stop on the Gold Line and ride it down to Chinatown, where the station is only a couple blocks from the studio.  From there, I can also take the metro to my gym, which is on the other side of Downtown (although I haven't tried that yet).

Another plus is that Strangeways is dog-friendly, although I haven't met any of the other studio dogs (except for Ana's dog Gus, whom I had met previously).  Paul and Daisy came here with me one evening last week, and I think that Daisy still needs a bit more civilizing before we make that much of a habit. I found a place in my neighborhood with great Yelp reviews for obedience training, so after I return from OCON (woohoo!) we'll get started on that.

Here it is:

Right next to the herbal foot reflexology joint on Jung Jing Road!  Stop by and say Hi!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Celebrating Frank Lloyd Wright's Birthday, 2012 Edition

Last year I inaugurated my Birthdays of the Great Ones series on this date with Frank Lloyd Wright.  I enjoy the little inspirational boost I get from this series. (Looking back, I guess I didn't post as many of these as I added to my Google Calendar. Hopefully I'll be better at it in the coming year.)

And now a year has gone by, and we're back around to Mr. Wright.  Here are a few links on Wright and his work for your edification and Friday enjoyment.

ArchDaily has a nice little piece on Wright today with a lovely photo of Fallingwater surrounded by colorful autumn leaves.

Here is an enjoyable lecture by historian Robert Twombly, discussing the relationship between Wright and his mentor Louis Sullivan. I listened to this on the plane back from ATLOSCON.  It's about an hour long. As I recall, the audio is a little rough at first, but it gets better after a minute or two. He does an good job of fact-checking a lot of the dates and assertions put forth by Wright regarding his relationship to and work for Sullvan, and has an interesting take on Wright's moonlighting and subsequent firing from Sullivan's office.

Of course there's always Wikipedia's entry on Wright for the relatively brief overview of his long career.

He didn't get a Google Doodle this year, but he got one in 2005, which you can see here. I can recognize the Larkin Building (I think, in yellow), the Guggenheim, and of course Fallingwater. I don't quite see what the little cube next to the red O is supposed to be.

Lastly, you can also check out my posts from last year, where I posted a YouTube video of Wright from the early days of television, and some photos from my visit to Fallingwater a few years ago.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

ATLOSCON 2012 Wrap-Up

Over Memorial Day weekend I had a great time in Atlanta attending (and presenting at) ATLOSCON, the mini-conference of the Atlanta Objectivist Society. I also presented a seminar on how modern architecture is much more than just blank white minimalist boxes, which is what I think most members of the general public think of, if they think of modern architecture at all. My talk was both well attended (over 40 people, about half of the total conference attendance! WooHoo!) and very well received.

The few weeks leading up to the conference, I was completely deluged with work, and the week immediately prior, I came down with a bad sinus infection. All of this combined to make getting out of town in any kind of reasonable way almost impossible, and I nearly missed my flight. I gave up on preparing my remarks in advance, and decided to just skip half a day of the conference to do it in Atlanta. That part worked out pretty well, and, combined with the fact that I can stand in front of a room full of people and talk about architecture all day long anyway, meant that I was in good shape by the time it was my turn to present.

But before I get ahead of myself, let's briefly recap the whole weekend.

I flew in on Thursday, arriving at around 3:00. Tom picked me up at the airport and we we went back to our hotel. We had arranged to split a room and a car, which all worked out very well. I needed the car because I had another architectural agenda for the weekend besides my talk: visiting and photographing the Peachtree Center and its adjacent hotels in downtown Atlanta, all of which were designed by the architect John Portman.

Thursday night was the conference meet-n-greet event, and it was like a homecoming for me in many ways.  I had gotten to know many of the ATLOS folks when I was in the area (sort of) building the Tennessee House. That was almost 2 years ago! It was great to see old friends again and begin to get caught up in person (which is so much better than Facebook and the blogs, although they are better than nothing). The highlight of my evening was meeting Lynne Bourque and her husband Stephen. I have known them online for a while, and they are every bit as great in person as I had expected them to be.

Friday morning I discovered that the local public library was next door to the rec center where the conference was held, which made it extra easy to cut class and work on my talk, while still joining everyone for lunch. The rest of the day I had 3 seminars, which were "What's So Darn Special About Firefly?" with Kelly Elmore; "Design Thinking" with Tim Cheadle and Tori Press; and "Wine and Cheese? Yes, please!" presented by Maggie Roberts. All of them were fun and engaging, and a good time was had by all.

That night I got busy polishing my talk for the next day, and decided in the process to scrap all the slides I had prepared earlier at the library, and devote my entire talk to John Lautner's architecture. I realized that since I had tons of photos of some excellent examples of his houses, both from the tour I took last summer and a couple of events I had participated in since, I would show those. The photos really did deserve a wider audience, and they fit my talk perfectly, which was titled, "Style and Individualism in Modern Architecture". You will be hard pressed to find a more individualistic architecture than Lautner's, and I had around 8 very good examples of his houses (some of which I still need to write up for the blog), ranging from his early career in the 1940s to as late as the '80s. By the time I pulled it all together and appropriately revised my introductory remarks, I finally made it to sleep by around 2am.

Saturday morning rolled around and I was up extra early re-editing and revising, and deciding which shirt to wear for my talk.  Before I presented I attended Miranda Barzey's talk on "The Importance and Value of Personal Style" which I enjoyed, although I was mostly focusing on my notes for my talk, which was next. (We were a little late to Miranda's presentation because Tom let his GPS talk us into going to the wrong Starbucks (#firstworldproblems) which I bring up here in the spirit of not being ready to let him live it down.)

Then it was my turn! The room was packed and I was a little nervous at first, but then I was fine once my own enthusiasm for the work took over.  They audience was responsive and engaged, and asked great questions along the way. I had floor plans for some of the houses, and one person remarked to me that he started to glaze over at first, when the first plan drawing flashed onto the screen, but that when I started pointing out specific features of the house in plan and linking them to the photos too, that it really came alive for him. Also, he observed that others in the audience were having a similar experience. I had many comments afterward that a) my enthusiasm was infectious; and b) that people in general had no idea that modern architecture could be so interesting!

I can't express how happy it makes me that I took a bunch of people who were pretty much ambivalent at best with regard to modern architecture and showed them a beautiful and interesting side to it that they didn't know existed previously. It just doesn't get much better than that.

That afternoon I had 2 more seminars: "The History and Science of Five Classic Cocktails" with Trey Peden and Tori Press; and "Maintaining Rational Optimism" with Paul Hsieh. That evening was the big party at the Casey House, where I had a great time mingling, meeting new people, and talking about the events of the weekend.  It was great to unwind and relax with a great group of folks, once my presentation was out of the way.

Sunday morning I headed to downtown Atlanta to check out the Peachtree Center and its hotels by John Portman. Portman pioneered the big open atrium lobby style of hotel (with glass elevators going up and down in the big atrium lobby).  This model is somewhat common today, but never existed at all prior to his 1967 Hyatt Regency, which is one of the three hotels by him in downtown Atlanta that I got to see on this trip. They were doing work on the roof and skylight but it still looked pretty great:

I also saw the Westin and Marriott Marquis, both of which were amazing, but I have to say that the Marriott rises above amazing to the level of stunning. I'll discuss these buildings in  more detail in the future, since I'm out of time today. Suffice it to say I have my subject matter for next year's ATLOSCON talk, likely to include a walking tour!

The rest of my Sunday afternoon included the OHomos panel discussion with myself, Tom, and Trey; and "Exploring Ayn Rand's Theory of Concepts" presented by Stephen Bourque.  The panel discussion was lively and consisted largely of coming out stories and questions from parents or future-parents about gayness and kids. Stephen's talk was just getting interesting when he unfortunately ran out of time, but he had some interesting observations on the topic.

It's hard to decide which aspect of the conference I enjoyed most, between seeing old friends, giving my talk, and seeing the Portman buildings.  Let's just call it a trifecta weekend of awesomeness.

Big shout out to Jenn, Kelly, Miranda, and the ATLOS-folk who put together such a great and fun conference!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Little Pre-Summer Interlude

Ok, so I've been totally neglectful of the blog for months.  And now it's almost Memorial Day, which means Summer is nearly upon us, and I have a huge backlog of stuff I've been doing, all the while thinking, "this would be good to put on the blog..."

And then I'm onto the next thing without taking any time out to stop and reflect and think about anything.  And then the next thing, and the next thing and the next thing.

Meanwhile there the blog sits in a big old months-long silent streak.

Going to try and break that streak right here and now with a fun little interlude that will hopefully help lead us into a fun summer of adventures and blogging about them.

Here (below) is an interactive panoramic photo I shot last summer, when I was in Chicago playing Uncle Nanny to my sister's kids and hanging around photographing buildings in the Loop in my spare time.  You can click anywhere on the image (once it loads its 5 mb - sorry about the size) and pan around almost a full 360 degrees.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Creatures of Prometheus 2nd Blogiversary

Today we are celebrating our 2nd Blogiversary here at Creatures of Prometheus!  Hooray!

If you haven't ever read my first post, which explains why I named the blog Creatures of Prometheus, now's your chance. Here's a handy link to make it easy. I just reread it and have to say, it is a fine little piece of writing.  Two years later, it really holds up. Beethoven, ancient mythology, and Ayn Rand, all wrapped up in a tidy little package, tied with a bow.

Last year I didn't do anything to mark the occasion, as I was thrown pretty suddenly into hand surgery in early February, and thus never got to it.  This time around, I want to mention some of the things I've written about, of which I'm especially proud, and in no particular order.

My series on John Lautner still gets tons of hits from Google image searches. I toured some of his houses last summer and wrote about 2 of them. I'm going to revive this series and add to it, because next Friday I'm going to Palm Springs with my friend LouAnne to tour the Elrod House, which ought to be pretty spectacular. I really really really really really hope they let us take pictures!

Back in 2010 I went on an epic 10-week road trip and helped build my greatest residential commission to date: the Tennessee House. Many of those posts are labeled under both categories, but not all of them are.  I'm so happy that I made the effort that I did to document both the trip and project. I will always look back upon that experience as one (of what will hopefully be many) of the highlights of my career.

I'm getting back into a lot more welding and making things here in the shop these days, so I'm looking forward to adding a lot of new stuff to those categories this year.

Studying Objectivism and contemplating its application to my life, and using the blog to work through my ideas and discoveries, gives me a certain type of fuel that is both intellectual and emotional. There are some really good insights in that category, and I hope to continue with more of those in the coming blog-year.

Along with Ayn Rand's work, I really enjoy digging into the writings and work of Louis Sullivan. He was such a profound thinker, it's really hard to overstate the importance of his writings.  I just discovered that all his posts aren't labeled, so I'll have to go in and fix that behind the scenes. My pictures of the Auditorium Building also get tons of hits from Google image searches, which is pretty neat, I think.

And, last but not least, the recipes posted under Paleo Food Intake Strategy also get tons of hits! Hopefully I'll be able to do more writing on food in the coming year also.

It's good to spend a minute going through the blog archives, because it makes me realize how much I've covered on the blog, and how much I still want to do!

Time to get busy!


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Puppy Love: Valentine's Daisy Edition

Here it is, Valentine's Day, and I am completely remiss for not posting sooner about the new pup, Daisy. She came home to live with Paul and me (and Roomie) on New Year's Eve, making it 6 weeks that she has been part of our little household. I mentioned her in my 2011 Year In Review post, but that's been about it.

When I first saw Daisy at the pound, I pretty much knew she'd end up coming home with us. This was her mug shot, and a few pictures of her from the pound:

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Reflections on Randsday

Today we're celebrating Ayn Rand's birthday, here at Creatures of Prometheus.  Harry Binswanger has come up with a really great way of marking the occasion: the creation of a new holiday, Randsday.  
To celebrate Randsday, you do something not done on any other holiday: you give yourself a present. Randsday is for getting that longed-for luxury you ordinarily would not buy for yourself. Or for doing that long-postponed, self-pampering activity you cannot seem to fit into your chore-packed schedule...On Randsday, if you do something that you ordinarily would think of as fun, you do it on a different premise and with a deeper meaning: that you need pleasure, you are entitled to it, and that the purpose and justification of your existence is: getting what you want—what you really want, with full consciousness and dedication.
Getting what you want, with full consciousness and dedication.  Getting what you really want, not just as a whim or an impulse, but, rather, getting what you really want out of your life.

Randsday is about pursuing your happiness. It's about recognizing that your life belongs to you, and only to you, and that you only get one, and it's short, and so you better get busy, because if you don't pursue your own happiness it's not like someone is just going to come around and hand you some.  You have to earn it.

So when you treat yourself to that special Randsday present (which, for me, is that Kindle Touch I've been wanting for weeks now), remember these words:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.  
Your life belongs to you.  Go live it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sam Maloof Exhibit at the Huntington

A nice collection of the work of iconic Southern California furniture maker Sam Maloof, along with many other artists and craftsmen in his circle, has been on exhibit at the Huntington since September; Roomie and I finally made it over there last Sunday to have a look and get inspired.

Maloof started out in the early 1950s, and this show presented examples of his work from private collections through 1985.  Below are my favorite pieces from the show, presented in roughly chronological order, which is the order in which they were displayed in the exhibit.

String Chair
I like this chair for its simplicity, low proportions, and the unexpected, fun shape of the rear legs. It makes me want to do something similar in steel as a study piece.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Going Dark to Protest SOPA & PIPA

Just announcing that Creatures of Prometheus will go dark tomorrow, January 18, 2012, along with Wikipedia, Google, Mozilla, reddit, and many other sites, to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act, and the Protect IP Act.

These two bills, now being considered in Congress, would represent a massive power grab by Washington, and would change the way the internet functions, forever.  If either of these bills becomes law, the government will have wide, new powers to shut down entire websites, immediately and without hearings, trials, or anything, based on simple (or wild) accusations of piracy or intellectual property misuse.  Apparently, you can even be shut down for linking to such alleged material - it doesn't have to be actually posted on your webpage.

This is NOT the way online piracy should be handled.

You can learn more here:

Educate yourself.  Write your congresspersons and tell them to oppose these draconian bills.  Lend your voice to the struggle.  Washington needs to know enough is enough!


p.s. I'll be back later in the week, with an update on the new pup!

UPDATE: I created this avatar for my facebook and twitter accounts; feel free to copy and use it!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

2011 Year-In-Review at Creatures of Prometheus

Let's just say that my 2011 had its ups and downs. It certainly felt at times like I was having way more than my fair share of frustrations heaped upon me, but there were some really stellar moments as well.

Let's go month by month, Rational Jenn Style, through the year.

2012 Rose Parade B2 Stealth Flyover

Sunday was New Year's Day, as everybody knows, but didn't really register as such with me, since there was no Rose Parade, and consequently no B2 Stealth Bomber flyover to watch from my front yard, slightly groggy-eyed, at 8:00 a.m. sharp.  I've come to rely on it for the past several years, as my marker for the start of the New Year.  It's a much more exciting way to 'ring in' the new year than staying up until midnight on New Year's Eve. *yawn*

Monday morning I finally got my flyover.

Here's how it goes down: First, the Goodyear Blimp appears on the scene.  Last year it motored right over my house en route to the parade; this year it flew in from the southeast and I spied it over my neighbors roofs across the street:

The blimp usually appears 10-15 minutes before 8.  Then you just watch the northern sky and wait.  This year I was getting a little antsy when, according to my iPhone, it was a couple minutes past 8, with nothing happening. I was about to tweet my frustration when I heard the roar approaching from the west.  It's tricky, because the sound somehow seems to precede the plane in a weird way. It's hard to describe.

Then it got very still, almost like you're in the eye of the storm.  I almost thought I'd missed it, when I spotted the B2.

Again, the whole thing is a little hard to describe.  It just appears to glide without any effort whatsoever, and makes very little sound at all at this point. It gradually descends, on a perfectly controlled trajectory, as it approaches the parade route.

Once it goes below the edge of the mountaintops, it becomes extremely hard to see.  Then I run inside and watch it swoosh over the Rose Parade on TV.

On a lark, I just did a quick YouTube search, which turned up this really great video (not by me) of the Stealth on approach; you can see it banking and everything, and it's extremely cool:

Happy New Year from Creatures of Prometheus!