The Meaning of Design

If you don’t stretch you won’t know where the edge is. I was constantly stretching into areas that I didn’t know very much about.

Designers don’t just look, but they see. They don’t just hear, but they listen. And they don’t just touch, but they feel. To design is to attempt to make a world a better place.

Sara Little Turnbull
The Mask – Throughline – May 14, 2020

What Trump Can Teach Us About Constitutional Law

For any #MAGA out there. You know who you are.

Trumpconlaw is another podcast hosted by Roman Mars of 99% Invisible fame. When the show first started, I started tweeting out my own version of promos for each episode. The series of them can be found under the tag TrumpConLaw on this blog. This post should appear as the header for that series of tweets. As a consequence of this, it will move forward in time as new episodes are released. Here is the introductory episode of the series.

StitcherIntro to What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law – 06.07.17

Twitter

So we’re going to learn the constitution together. Because of Trump. Because I need something to hold onto, and the constitution is the liferaft that our forefathers gave us. And dammit, I’m going to learn how it works.

Roman Mars

On a tangential track (or set of tracks) I am slowly working my way through the 99% Invisible archive. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever make it all the way through, but hope springs eternal. 99% Invisible is undoubtedly one of the best designed websites in existence. All Roman Mars podcasts and the podcasts that are presented through his distribution group, Radiotopia, are among the few podcasts out there that are easily shareable; easily shareable because the link to the hosting website is actually referenced in the feed address for the podcast you are listening to. I remain baffled as to why more podcasts do not design their feeds to be easily accessible in this way. In any case, give some of these podcasts a listen. It will take your mind off of the impending doom looming over the US today.


TED2015 Roman Mars Why city flags may be the worst-designed thing you’ve never noticed

09/22/19. I added the link to the introduction episode, the inspirational tweet, and Roman’s quote from that episode. 04/13/20. Moved to March 19th subsequent to the last episode at the time.

Is it Natural or Gaudi?

Screencap of Google Home

Our Google Chromecast delivered this ambient photograph that the Wife and I could not identify when we wandered through the living room on Wednesday. Was it a gear? Was it an organic growth? We couldn’t tell, so I took a screenshot of it on my phone. I looked it up today, and it is Gaudi. Specifically Casa Batlló. That explains everything.

(Pinterest embeds in WordPress are almost mythical; as in, I can’t do a damn thing with them or modify them even though they show up. I’m not happy about it, but that is what it looks like.)

…but I hear you saying “who the hell is a Gaudi?” Ah. You aren’t an archiphile. Let me explain then. Antoni Gaudí is one of the more infamous architects in history. Rather than go through the entire story of his most famous achievement, I’ll let 99% Invisible explain it all to you. Here is the audio for the episode,

99% Invisible – La Sagrada Familia on Stitcher

But the webpage located here has a photo history about the longest-running construction project in modern history, La Sagrada Familia. There is no way I can do that story justice no matter what I say here. Let Roman explain it to you with words and pictures. Or you could just watch this short video,

Basílica de la Sagrada FamíliaWe build tomorrow – Sep 25, 2013

I’ve never seen any of his work in person. Barcelona, Catalonia and Spain, where all of his structures are located, is out of my travel price range. But I’ve known of him by reputation for longer than I’ve actually known his name. Images of his works are almost unmistakably marked with the stamp of his unique genius. Only very recently has his style of design be utilized, and then only by a select few architects like Frank Gehry, are these flowing, natural designs practiced. It takes aviation design software to achieve what Gaudi did with strings and weights hanging from his ceiling back in the 192o’s.

That is Gaudi.

Bridge

From everything that man erects and builds in his urge for living nothing is in my eyes better and more valuable than bridges. They are more important than houses, more sacred than shrines. Belonging to everyone and being equal to everyone, useful, always built with a sense, on the spot where most human needs are crossing, they are more durable than other buildings and they do not serve for anything secret or bad.

Ivo Andrić, Nobel prize winner for literature
John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge – Wikipedia

The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge – Roebling’s more famous suspension bridge. I found it a gripping read, much like another work by David McCullough, The Wright Brothers.

Accessible?

Support groups for the disabled are frequently a lifesaver for people who have limited access to humans with sympathy/empathy for what they are going through. I participate in several online support groups for Meniere’s, the invisible disability that I am cursed with. The image above/right was posted in one of the private groups I’m part of; and when I went looking for the image I discovered it was all over the web in various forms, many of them heartlessly defaced by trolls who think that all the disabled people should get out and get a job, you lazy bums!

In the Meniere’s group where the image was posted one of the commenters asked why the third guy from the right is leaning on an upside down dildo. He made me laugh with his question, and we riffed on that back and forth for awhile. But the question got me thinking, which is why I went online looking for the origin of the image and stumbled across all the troll variations of it and the casual cruelty of the unafflicted that comes with that territory.

International symbology is one of those things that, having once been an architect, I have an inside track on understanding. Here’s what the symbology means, officially:

  • Arm missing
  • Blind (universal symbol for services for the blind)
  • Crutches (injured get preferential access. Hospital signage)
  • Wheelchair (universal symbol of accessibility)
  • Walker (Accessibility, limited walking capability)
  • Elderly (Not a disability, dammit!)
  • Leg missing
  • Invisible Disability (You’re disabled? You look normal)

I had a hand in documenting signage for Austin-Bergstrom International Airport back in the day. I know the symbology; or rather, I know where to go looking for the official definitions for the symbols. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has over 6k images in their online database now. Here is a link to the symbol for priority access for elderly people. The American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) has a list of fifty symbols commonly used in transit hubs, the kinds of places where symbolic communication is essential since communication in a common language may not be possible.

Most of the symbols in the invisible disability image are not standard, but crafted in the helvetica style adopted by international symbology. There is no ISO symbol for missing limbs because that disability is too specific to a particular person not a generalizable disability requiring recognizable symbols that give directions. Well, maybe at the Veterans Administration where they have amputees waiting for years to get care. They probably have queue signage and queues that go on for blocks.

However, the illustrator that created the invisible disability image left off one of the most common disability symbols, the symbol for services for the deaf. It doesn’t fit the theme, but deafness is a pretty common disability and just leaving them out of the image sells their disability short. This is something I’m sensitive to since I’ll probably be deaf one day myself.

While looking for the origins of the illustration, I stumbled across the dildo dude, who can be seen in this Shutterstock image, as well as a couple of the other symbols. I also discovered a movement afoot to update the accessibility symbol with something that looks like it was designed this century, instead of last century, Accessibleicon.org. I can’t say I’m promoting their defacement of standard signage because I have an uncontrollable twitch when it comes to graffiti, an urge to reach out and snap off the arm of the person defacing public property. But I do like the updated symbology. I was never very fond of the old symbol in the first place.

Moneyland

Ordinary people wouldn’t want to live there. Because if you went there, there is no social life, there’s no… there’s no nothing. These… it’s almost dead environments. So what this is, it has turned parts of our major cities, places like London and New York, it’s turned them now into essentially bank accounts. Bank accounts in the form of bricks and mortar.

Oliver Bullough, author of Moneyland
Fresh Air – How Oligarchs, Kleptocrats & Crooks Stash Fortunes – May 1, 2019

Trump properties have over 700 units that are held by untraceable shell companies. Tell me again how he isn’t a crook. Caveat Emptor.

Notre Dame Fire

If 2019 is remember for anything, it will probably be remembered for this event. Notre Dame, one of the only structures to have survived for as long as it has (850 years) without major damage, has been nearly destroyed by fire.

Workmen engaged in renovation of the structure accidentally set the massive wooden beams that support the roof on fire, and the fire detection systems were confusing and inadequate. This resulted in there being a massive blaze, visible outside the building, before the firefighters had a chance to put the fire out. Most of the interior of the building is a total loss.

This building was more than a religious icon. The impact of its loss will be hard to measure. Emotional. Spiritual. Architectural. Thank goodness that the damage was as limited as it was. That the structure is still apparently intact except for the roof.

Feature image found here, credited to the Associated Press . This article was backdated to the date that the event occurred. Written 12/28/19.


Notre Dame Cathedral was unable to hold Christmas Eve mass for the first time in more than 200 years after a fire ravaged its structure in April.

French Catholics instead gathered at the church of Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois, a few hundred metres away from the Paris landmark, for a service celebrated by the cathedral’s rector Patrick Chauvet.

“It isn’t the same feeling but it’s still a Christmas mass,” said 16-year-old Juliette, who had made the 700km (435 miles) trip from Aix-en-Provence with her family. “There will be a thought for Notre Dame tonight, that’s for sure.”

The Guardian

The Last Man on Rainey Street

Haunting first person descriptions of the transition from low-income residential to high-priced commercial property. Right here in Austin.

StitcherATXplained – The Last Man On Rainey Street – February 14, 2019

ATXplained.org


The article on KUT’s site is here. The ATXplained podcast page doesn’t do the story justice, from a visual perspective.

“I always feel melancholy when I [think about leaving] this place. This is my home. Not only mine but mine in spirit. Hopefully you’ll understand. I’m saying this because maybe –”

Then the phone line cut out.

KUT – The Families Who Lived On Rainey Street All Left. But One Man Stayed.

June 3, 2019.

“Built in 1910 this is the last remaining residential home on Rainey St. A treasure in time ready to pass this Austin Gem over to the next steward to create their own legacy with a piece of Downtown Austin. These properties rarely go to market and awaiting your next concept, whether it be a Restaurant, Bar, Hotel or Music Venue, the options are endless with the CBD zoning.”

KUT.org – The Last Single Family Home on Rainey Street is For Sale

SGU and Moon colonization

The brothers Novella had the missing brother George on the podcast today. George’s question of HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) vs. internet is a no brainer and I can’t believe no one mentioned the reason why HVAC is easily sacrificed. You don’t know why either, dear reader? Maybe it’s because none of you are architects.

You don’t need HVAC in an Earth shelter home or a cave. Why? Because the earth just under the sun-warmed crust is 68°F all year long. This is true everywhere except in the frozen North, where it freezes to a depth of several feet. Much further North than the brothers Novella reside. Just dig into your nearest hillside and you will have access to cool air or warm air (if warmth is what a constant temperature of 68 degrees is to you) all year ’round.

It’s the internet I’m keeping. I need my information. Good information is the difference between life and death. I’ll deal with the vagaries of having to bundle up against the cold on the rare days we get it in central Texas.

Going on about this specific episode of The Skeptic’s Guide; the newb, Cara Santa Maria sounds so selfish talking about space colonization. She definitely lost my respect there. Human space colonization is inevitable. It’s why people still live all over the face of the Earth. We expand to fill whatever space we have available to live in. If we can make it habitable, we’ll live there. Otherwise the archeologists will stumble across our bones when they show up to find out why people died there.

The thing that holds us back from colonizing space is building a functioning arcology which includes not just self sufficiency, but sustainability. People have to want to live in the arcology, given other choices. Until we can solve that puzzle we won’t be colonizing anywhere, successfully.

Antarctica not currently populated is a correct statement. Antarctica is by design not populated. It would be populated along the coasts by this point had there not been agreement that the continent was off-limits (which was a mistake in my opinion) consigning the continent to third-world status where no country or individual can ever be sure to be able to make a property claim.

I’m beyond my tolerance for stupid these days. With stormtrumper on the one hand pretending not to see the lies, and anti-vaxxers and GMO fear-mongers on the other pretending that no evidence is evidence, someone throwing the “there’s no reason to be in space” bullshit at me puts me just this side of airlocking that person on principles.

It is human nature to explore. It is human nature to want to be the explorer, not the vicarious observer. Do you disagree with me? Are you then saying that Everest is not seeing an ever-increasing number of people who want to summit? That we aren’t seeing trips to the antarctic and the arctic by people just wanting to go there? You’re saying there aren’t remote outposts in all these places I’ve mentioned, set up specifically for purposes of exploration? Are you saying that exploration has no value just for exploration’s sake? How interesting.

Sustainable arcology. Several steps above the biosphere project. As a former architect, speaking about architecture, I know of what I speak when it comes to this subject. When we have a sustainable arcology we will have a transplantable model for human colonization. Until that time we are just sightseers and explorers on temporary missions. This has value, and boots on the ground has the ability to fix unforeseen problems like the Apollo 13 rescue effort or the problems presented on the first moon landing. There is value in exploration of that nature, as these microcomputers that are now embedded in everything and are irreplaceable in modern communications can attest.

To enable human expansion across the solar system, NASA is working with private companies and international partners to develop the Gateway, an outpost for crewed missions to the Moon that also supports scientific discovery and opportunities for a lunar economy.  The agency is involving college students and faculty with the adventure of human space exploration through the 2019 Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts – Academic Linkage (RASC-AL) competition. RASC-AL is seeking proposals from the university community in four categories related to the Gateway and supporting capabilities that will establish a long-term human presence in deep space near the Moon and on the lunar surface.

NASA