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.

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.

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

Lunch & Learn

The take away from BBC Business Daily, Being Watched at Work is that studying work habits and office design yields a much better outcome for workers; so long as the watching is unobtrusive and that your employees do not feel that they are being treated as suspects in a crime. Several of the new technologies are being used in very questionable ways, and yet paying attention to how ideas are generated is important if you want your business to succeed.

We called it “Lunch and Learn” at Graeber, Simmons & Cowan. The two stints I did as a line draftsman and architect at that architecture firm were some of the best years I spent in the field. Sitting around the conference room table hashing out how to use the tools we were given, and what the future of technology offered to the field. A twelve seat table beats a four seat table, every time.

Improper Takings

One of the segments on the Texas Standard today caught my ear,

TEXAS STANDARD – FORT BEND COUNTY SUES US ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS OVER HARVEY-RELATED FLOODING

[Fort Bend County Judge Robert Hebert] says the reservoir was built in such a way that overspill and flooding of private property was inevitable. “It should be quite obvious when the federal property ends at an elevation of 95 feet and the emergency spillway for the reservoir is at 107 feet, something’s wrong.”

Texas Standard

I’m not sure how the host of the show was confused by the math in that statement, but doing the math you come to the answer of twelve feet of water being stored on private property when the reservoir is at 100% capacity. This fact should have been evident in the original designs of the reservoir, as I’m sure the County Judge knows. The original construction documents would have these measurements on them.

Anyone buying property behind the dam would have been advised that their property was located in a flood plain, could be subject to flooding if the reservoir was filled to capacity. There are many homes located in floodplains like this everywhere across Texas at least. Probably across the US if not the entire world. If this fact wasn’t disclosed to prospective buyers before they signed contracts, then there is quite a bit of liability there to go around. Not just the corps of engineers, but the county, the developers, the mortgage lenders, the realtors who sold the property, etc. I suspect that there are going to be a lot of lawsuits filed over this in the coming months. At least 3100 of them, possibly a multiple of that number depending on how wealthy the landowners are, and how many governmental bodies had jurisdiction over the property being sold.

I think the county is trying to avoid being sued themselves, that’s how I read this. It’s hard to get a lawsuit to stick against a county when that county is already engaged in a lawsuit against the governmental body, the Army Corps of Engineers, that is responsible for constructing a reservoir that was designed to store twelve feet of water on private land in the first place. Proving the county knew this fact beforehand should be a simple matter of discovery. So I’m not sure how well this defensive action will work, but I wish the county luck.

This entire mess is proof positive that you should take the time to read your contracts before signing them. Have an attorney read them over for you, at the very least. It blows my mind the number of people who just sign contracts without understanding the liability they are assuming in putting their signature on a document that they haven’t read.