Monday, June 29, 2009
The garden in general is enjoying some good growth and morning sun, and it's become even more verdant and productive.
Wh-wh-what? What is that in my corn? Are those the beginnings of cornulence? Squee! It is! Two of my corn stalks have these cornulent things growing in the tops. Down low behind the corn, you can see my bean plants growing. I planted those a few weeks after I got the corn plants into last year's Earthbox, and so far all six plants are growing. We should have beans at some point.
My tomatoes, as usual, are losing their minds and going all feed-me-Seymour in their new Earthbox. You can see some li'l green tomatoes already at the base of one of the two. Both of my tomatoes this year are grape tomatoes. They tend to produce faster/earlier in the season and consistently all the way through the summer even into early October.
In the foreground here, the circular container has carrots, which are progressing nicely but I don't think are ready yet to be picked. The two long boxes beyond the carrots are my lettuce mix, which sprouted from year-old seeds. They're ready to thin a little this week and throw into a couple of sandwiches or salads.
It's really been satisfying to watch stuff grow and produce this year. Guy thinks I may have maxxed out the balcony in terms of weight limit (the balconies on our buildings are cantilevered concrete slabs about 4"-6" thick). But I'd love to keep growing veggies, even if I don't do a lot of decorative plants. I like knowing that I can keep something growing and living in a semi-inhospitable environment, which is rather a metaphor for life sometimes, isn't it?
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Thursday, June 18, 2009
After the getting work post, I got the funniest and yet most poignant email from a marketing coordinator at an architecture firm in Canada. Ontario, as we’ll call this poor, beleaguered marketing person, had some really interesting insights about getting work, many of which explain why architects drink. Ontario summed up the problem with RFPs as they are these days as “…a highly politicized process and more of a formality than an actual adequate and fair means of gauging one firm’s qualifications against another.” Very well put—it is indeed hard to separate oneself from the pack when all the firms are sending you different cover versions of the same song, which is “Pick Us Because We Are Experienced In Your Building Type And A Great Group Of People To Work With, and We Care About Your Company And Its Vision For the Future.”
Proposal calls from clients can often be downright ludicrous. One example of this is a medical system just saying “We’re planning to do a patient tower addition to our downtown campus. In the RFP, provide experience with healthcare facilities and sustainable construction. “ Okay, well, first off, are you adding up or out to your downtown facility’s patient tower? And which of your three patient towers are you doing this to? What’s your timeline? What’s your budget? Are you going after any unusual sources of funding, like stimulus money, CMS or FQHC grants, fundraising? How big of a patient tower? Are you going to have to keep the existing tower (whichever of their three towers it is) operational during construction? These are examples of information that helps a firm decide if it has the experience it needs to do the project right. Sometimes, when firms email or call for this info, the client will respond that they don’t have that info right now and really, it’s not material, we just want your qualifications right now. Well, I’d call that assertion retarded, but that would be an insult to all the wonderful, heroic participants of the Special Olympics. Of course it’s material to the RFP! It helps us tailor the info we give you to something that will actually be of use to you, so you can compare apples to apples! There are lots of healthcare firms all over any state that would be glad to go after that work for you, but if it’s under $20 million, some firms will bow out. If it’s over 100,000sf, some smaller firms may want to partner with another firm so that they’ll have the resources and manpower to get the job done. It makes all the difference in the world, punkin. Tell a Shorty.
The next thing is the format of the RFP. The description of a few of the RFPs that have gone out of Ontario’s firm lately made me spit coffee onto my monitor. One RFP wanted the firms to cover project understanding, project approach, workplan, schedule, and resumes of all the project team members…in five pages. FIVE?! How the hell do you judge anything in five pages? Moreover, how thehell do you pack in al of that info into five pages?! You’d be lucky if you could do it any justice in 20! As Ontario says, “Might as well of just asked for a sticky note.” On the other end of the spectrum, an RFP Ontario worked on required, essentially, that the firms provide in nauseating detail everything they’d do. Ontario says it best here:
“At the other end of the spectrum, some clients request that we provide CVs for each and every member of our team and his mother, and sister, and long-lost relative…..And they want us to describe every nauseating detail about how we’ll hold their hand throughout the entire process, from project kick-start to final occupancy. One proposal I did exceeded 100 pages! No RFP response should ever exceed a Master’s thesis; that should be criminal. What do they think? That paper grows on trees?”
Another ridiculous requirement is asking us to describe what our subconsultants will be doing on the project. Again, Ontario puts it best: “Well, what do they think Structural Engineers do? Teach Kung Fu?”
The worst part of RFPs, really, is the lack of transparency regarding final selection. We see this happen with public and private institutions alike. An institution (.com, .gov, or .org, whatever) will send out a proposal request to a bunch of architects or even publicly post it where anyone can see it and answer it. But when it’s all said and done, everyone can tell that they already had the winner picked; the RFP process was a formality, and any interviews (if there were any) were just about going through the motions. When other firms call to ask why they didn’t get it, the client’s reply is often some variation on “So-N-So Architects brought more to the table/really seemed to click with our selection committee, and they’ve done work with us before/are familiar with our campus due to previous work here.” Ontario has pressed these people for further elaboration and asked what could be done to make Ontario Architects better in future endeavors, and I know at our office Veronica has done the same thing. Even with this pressing, the refrain is, “So-N-So Architects is more familiar with our facility.” Fair enough, but then you knew that going in, so why dangle the carrot in front of the rest of us if there’s no chance? Just sign a contract with So-N-So Architects to be your architectural services provider for the next 2/3/6 years and make them your go-to group.
Now, my firm will sometimes do these RFPs and do interviews when they make the shortlist for these lost causes, and the partners’ reasoning is that if the client ever gets annoyed with So-N-So Architects, maybe they’ll remember us. Again, fair enough, but even our office does about 80% repeat business. The RFP process has become a lot of unnecessary work most of the time, but occasionally we’ll get a job out of it, like Wheatlands or FCH. Psychologists call this the law of intermittent rewards. It’s the same principle that gambling addiction is based on.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Monday, June 15, 2009
Ah, just past the arboricola and boxwood sentinels is a lovely seating area with a couple of Lawd-knows-how-old Chinese evergreens on an old table of Guy's. Near the railing from front to back are the beginnings of my grape tomato plants, the beginnings of my sweet corn plants (with some beans just planted in the box with them), a Virginia creeper that needs a real trellis to grow on, and a pot full of irises. Just behind the Adirondack chair with the Wilderness Gina-made afghan on it are some herbs--oregano and kung pao peppers in one pot (making a return visit from last year's garden), and a new rosemary plant along with the feed-me-Seymouresque parsley plant on a rack. Against the grey screen is my three- or four-year-old gardenia, which I have named Terri Schiavo because it refuses to die but isn't really alive.
Ah, now we can see the garden from the north end of the balcony. Outside of the courtyard are two boxes of lettuce which have languished a bit in the cilly unseasonable air, and beyond them is the basil which has been moved back outdoors like a prisoner getting its one hour of sunshine and exercise each day. What? It's going to be 48 tonight? Back in the hole you go, Basil!
Here's a closer look at the tomatoes and corn. The round container in the lower right corner has carrots in it--we'll see how those go. The tomatoes generally do well in the Earthbox. That's a new Earthbox with the tomatoes, but the corn and beans are now in last year's Earthbox, which grew some kick-ass 'maters. I'm not sure how the rest of these veggies will do, but at least the 'maters will cover up the gaps bewteen the balcony railing and the hoi polloi at the pool of the apartment building next door, with their bad taste in boombox music and insistence on wearing Speedos and Bon Jovi t-shirts. Have some self-control people; that outfit is bad medicine, and if you think you have the body to pull it off, you're livin' on a prayer.
Maddy is still with us. She occasionally has bouts of nausea but is still doing decently. She loves treats, laps, petting, and evidently rubbing her head on the irises' leaves. Occasionally she noms them, and Mama has to get up and wave her away from them.
After such a scolding, she comes and sits on my lap and snugs and purrs, and we enjoy the fresh air, warm sun, and good company of life and growing things. More garden updates as conditions warrant.
Friday, June 12, 2009
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Monday, June 8, 2009
Friday, June 5, 2009
Remember that value engineering I mentioned earlier? First of all, Yamasaki's firm proposed a mix of varying heights and densities of buildings--low rise, high rise, and walk-ups (not more than three stories)--but that plan was nixed and all buildings were set at eleven stories each in order to economize each building's construction. Some politicians attributed the high cost estimates to having to pay union wages to the construction crews. Regardless, money had to be saved somehow, and changing the size and shape of the buildings wasn't the only way. In order to get more people into smaller building footprints, the units were way too small and had inadequate kitchens and plumbing fixtures. Even worse were that the elevators only stopped on three of the eleven floors--it costs a lot of money to stop an elevator on a floor, so by stopping it on the first, fourth, seventh, and tenth, you save a lot of cash, right?
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
B is the church.
D is a residence.
This is not just a residence, people: this is the Glass House by Philip Johnson. Mmm. That queen knew how to do some crazy shizzle. Behind the photographer of this shot is the Brick House, which has solid walls except for a few small circular windows. I can't even tell you how much I want to see this house, this place. I'm sure if I ever get to New Canaan, CT, I'll just fall to the ground and weep.
This is the Phoenix Public Library in Phoenix, AZ, by postmodernist and really-good-but-reputedly-kinda-vain architect Will Bruder. I had to do a project on the unusual structure of this building, and it's pretty cool. I only got a B on the project. Shoulda had Bruder present it for me. In the lecture last year, some students thought that this was the church because it looked like the megachurches you see these days.
Finally, F is a train station. It was also built before the Civil War.
St. Pancras in London, England is also a hotel. In the lecture, this was seemed to be the easiest for everyone to get as built before the Civil War because the students associate Gothic architecture with really really old buildings.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Monday, June 1, 2009
Okay, just like last year when I went to do my architecture lecture, we're doing the quiz again.
Here's the deal: if you wanna play, just for funsies, post your answers as a comment. I'll hold off on posting all the comments until I'm back from
1. Which of these do you think is a church?
2. Which do you think is a government building?
3. Which do you think is a train station?
4. Which is a residence?
5. Which is a business or office building?
6. Which of these do you think was built before the Civil War (which was 1861-1865, for those that got a D in History)?