Monday, December 20, 2010

Mile High Lazy

We were told just before Thanksgiving that we needed to use all of our 2010 vacation time or we were going to lose it. Now, technically, they can't take it away from us if we've earned it. However, we all understand that they need to get that "debt" off the books before we traipse into 2011. Funny, many of us haven't been able to take our vacation time this year because there's always something else to be done. But with this end-of-year mandate, we in the ranks are having no trouble using up our remaining days...Da Shorty included.

Turns out that even after taking off time for Thanksgiving, I still have eight days. Ergo, I will not be at work for the final two weeks of the year. Hell to the yeah. Today was spent running a couple of errands with Guy, and the rest of the week will be spent visiting with a good pal of mine, practicing meditation (at which I am terrible), walking and doing yoga, vegging out a little with some TV, drinking coffee and reading anything and everything, and just generally resting. We leave for Georgia on Christmas Eve for a few days' visit, and afterwards we'll be spending a few days in the mountains skiing in the New Year. And I won't be giving a crap about architecture. (I mean, I like architecture, but we see other people.)

So, posting will be spotty for the next couple of weeks (like it hasn't been for the past couple of months, derp!), but I'm getting some well-earned rest. Peace!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Thank heavens for small favors

So I finally had my review. Sven was present, as well as Howie (which I didn't understand--I really hadn't worked with him a lot in the past two years). I explained to them how worn out I was, and that one of my goals for 2011 is to learn to ration my energy a little better, set some limits, and get better at either turning down some requests and delegating others. At first it was almost like I had to defend myself--there was the inevitable attempt at an analogy by Howie: "well, I look at management as like being in a boat, and I can kinda steer the boat, but the other people in the boat can move it as well, and I can't always stop the boat from hitting the banks--"

"Fair enough," I replied, "but on my four projects, I'm the only one in the boat, and I'm dragging three more boats behind me, and I have to keep getting into those boats to steer them, too. I'm not 'managing' four projects; I'm working on them--I am those four projects."

Sven got my drift (no pun intended) instantly, but it took a little more for Howie to concede my point, ever begrudgingly. We talked about the nature of management and leadership and the internal changes it demands of people, and we talked about how my job has and will be changing, and then Howie said the most extraordinary thing. He had in front of him the Design Associates, Inc. Company Checklist of Traits and Behaviors That We Think Are Valuable In Our Employees, and he had checked "Excellent" on all of them on the checklis with my name on it, but I noticed that one of them had two checks by it. "I gave you double-checks for 'Promotes a positive work environment'," he said. "Your conduct with everyone and the way you treat people is so supportive and helpful, and you really make work a fun place to be."

So, after a lengthy discussion and a few pats on the back, I got a 3% raise. Which sounds sucky until you remember that not everyone got raises this year, only those who had either gotten licensed or done something really cool or whose job description had changed significantly. It was nice to be recognized, even a little bit, and I appreciated the kind words for sure. As we left the conference room, Sven suggested that he and I go to lunch in the next couple of weeks at some point to just talk. Well, how about that.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Monday Visual Inspiration: Now this is a bathroom sign

Taken at a gas station/convenience store somewhere in Kansas on Thanksgiving Sunday, 2010.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Monday Visual Inspiration: Dear Mommy, please make me these outfits

Rather than complain yet again about how tired and burned-out I am, I figure instead I'll show y'all a few shiny taffeta-ish-looking tops and dresses that I want Mom to make for me. Fire up the sewing machine!

First two pictures: pre-Thanksgiving window displays at Molly's of Denver.

Next two pictures: Xmas window displays at Adornments in Cherry Creek North

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I can haz moar vacashun?

My Thanksgiving was great, and I hope yours was too. I didn’t check email—any of my accounts—for five whole days. I think my blood pressure actually kinda went down to a nice, normal number. However, I could have used a few more days of it, just doodling around and not drawing or fretting or tolerating nonsense. I got back to work Monday, and while the day itself wasn’t awful (most of my bosses are out of town on business for most of the week), I still found myself getting reflexively irate in the early evening when I realized I was out of enchilada sauce, and I found myself weeping at the nice sentiments on t-shirts and plaques in the Signals catalog. Results not typical for a Pixie.

However, I’m enjoying my fantastic new Zoya nail polish (including some matte colors!), and I woke up nicely to my lemon body scrub this morning, both early Christmas gifts from La Mama de Guy (thanks again, La Mama!). And it was nice to discover that I actually enjoyed working on some space plans today; it’s something that I’m really good at, and it’s rare that we architects get to do space planning to the extent that I’m doing it—about 40,000 sf worth, at least. I figure I need to start looking for some good moments to take some time off and get my mojo back, so maybe that’ll be my Christmas present to myself—guilt-free time off.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving...and not a moment too soon

This two-day workweek is right on time, my peeps. After coming down off of my deadline with Orville, I have found myself feeling full-fledged burnout again. I thought I had conquered this over the summer, but I evidently only tamped it down enough to keep working. I should have spent my half-day last week painting my nails and doing nothing, but I spent it cleaning which, while necessary, also just added to my exhaustion. I went back to work to face Howie, only to find that now Sven wants me to move upstairs to sit closer to the rest of the Gestalt team (whom I find to be decent human beings but half-ass architects, so I'd really rather not move). Plus, once I expressed anything even remotely resembling tiredness, Howie asked another architect in the office (non-healthcare) to help me with the SD layouts that I was supposed to be doing because, and I quote because I heard him over the wall on the phone with the architect, "She looks like she's kinda struggling."

Yes, Senor Fucktard, I am struggling, because as soon as I get done with one big-fast-monumental-do-more-than-you-were-originally-supposed-to-do-on-this-project deadline, there's another one right on its heels, and I have no time to rest or recover or anything. So I design an ambulatory surgical suite in 90 minutes or so, then I go in the bathroom and dry a few tears and pray for 5pm so I can just go home and not do anything and not serve anyone or have to humor anyone. It's been a long month and frankly a long year, and I can only describe the feeling as burnout. All I want to do is stare at the wall. I'm supposed to take all my vacation by the end of the year, but how am I supposed to do that when everything I have to do from here on out is one deadline after another and maybe you can take a few days right before Christmas but I really need to take the days now before I throw a grand mal hissy fit at work?

So, Thanksgiving has come at a good time. I'm actually looking forward to the drive to St. Louis. Being in a car with Guy for 12 hours is pretty good, really, as he and I generally have some great conversations and make each other laugh the whole way, and sometimes we're just quiet and Guy lets me be quiet and in my own little world for a bit. Indeed, I'm quite thankful for him.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Prepare for decompression...

I wrapped up my deadline this morning with Orville and Intern Devon, and then I left the office by 10am. Having spent at least one day a weekend in the office for the past five weekends in a row, I'm kinda over it. Plus, if I have to start working on space planning a specialty clinic with Howie tomorrow, I need a break. I ended up getting some errands done around town as well as some cleaning done around the house. Now it's time to paint my nails and wait for Guy to get home and cook dinner. Tuna Helper for everyone!

In better news, we got an email today saying that the day after Thanksgiving would be a paid holiday this year (as opposed to being a furlough day like last year). That was welcome news indeed and makes the holidays look a little better this year.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Who watches the Watchmen? Part 2 of 2

It's been a while since I mentioned the MRI project with Will. Since Will is a partner, he usually isn't that involved in the day-to-day management of a project. Therefore, an associate is the next level down at my office (and at many firms across the country) who would actually manage a project. For the MRI project, Will assigned Orville as the managing associate, me as the architect, and Intern Devon as the intern/drawing-and-printing lackey. It's a small project, really--we're putting in an MRI into an existing space and renovating some nearby offices as well. What makes it tough is that the project has to be built on a really fast schedule so that research group that's going in halvsies with the research facility can move into the MRI suite in March and start doing their research. Like big research. Like they're-on-the-cusp-of-curing-three-major-diseases big. Oh, and did I mention that we haven't even finished the construction documents for the project, and they're picking the contractor in December? And they want all this done in less than three months (Jan-Mar)?

I'll wait a moment while all my architectural readers twitch and convulse regarding those last few sentences.

So, Will puts me on the project because I've done four MRIs in ten years, three of them in the last five years. Will brings on Orville presumably to run the project and because he has a lot of construction experience and has done two MRIs himself. However, in the past couple of months, I have found that I really like Orville as a person and loathe him as an architect. I'm having to get all the engineers in the room for coordination meetings and and run those coordination meetings as well as the meetings with the users and basically run this project. Orville has done the specs for the project (eventually), but hasn't really reviewed the drawings at any point that I can tell. He comes in at ten am and calls me eventually to ask "hey, did uh....did you see...........this...this email from So-and-So...?" And my response is almost always, "Yeah. Go up in your email about five or six exchanges to where So-and-So responded at 9:34 am and you'll see our solution to the problem." Dude wasn't even in on Friday, and these drawings are due this Monday. While Orville has had some interesting comments and suggestions on how to fix things, it's like his head isn't even in the project most of the time. Even riding in a car with him from the research facility back to our office is unsettling and time-wasting--there's a quick exit off the highway that takes you straight to our office, but he's wandering all over the back roads of Denver's industrial fringes and has-been neighborhoods.

This is my fear, as un-PC as it might be to say or write it: I think Orville is going senile.

He's 67, and several years ago he had some work done on his heart (stents or something), and according to my dear friend Vinnie the psychologist, having your heart worked on in such an invasive way can really slow you down both in terms of physical speed and mental processing capacity. And I fear that's what's happened to Orville. He is quite literally acting too slow to be on this project with Devon and me. So on a project in which I'm only supposed to work about 4-8 hours a week (which is what Will told Sven), I'm working more like 20 hours a week because it's the only way to make the project even stand a chance of being successful.

So here's my question, faithful readers: is it wrong of me to express this concern to Sven? I feel like I'm being ageist if I say something like "Orville is too slow to run this project", but I feel like I need to explain to Sven why I'm not able to fully keep on top of the four Gestalt projects I'm running for him and why I've had to work overtime for the past couple of weeks. Further, I'm hearing from other folks in the office that they've had similar experiences in working with Orville (e.g., the interior designer who had to suck it up and run the client meetings because they no longer had the patience for Orville's constant non sequiturs, jokes, and random stories of his childhood growing up in Leadville). At least people like him (which is more than Howie can say for himself at the moment), but working with him is frustrating and unproductive.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Who watches the Watchmen? Part 1 of 2

Rumor has it that we're actually getting reviews this year, and there's a remote chance that we might get a wee li'l raise. We'll see on the latter, and I'm even a little wary of the former. What I'm mostly concerned about is how reviews are performed, as in, are they done across the board? Who reviews the higher-ups at Design Associates? It gives me pause for two big reasons: Howie and Orville.

Howie has always been intense and had really high and exacting standards. In general, this has been a really good thing. Those who work with Howie for at least 6 months tend to get really good at architecture, not just the actual architecture part but also the writing-good-emails and asking-sharp-questions and doing-good-research parts. You know, all the parts you can't really learn in school because you don't have a real project that's getting built. But the past two years appear to have taken their toll on Howie. His behavior and intensity are to a point that no one who works for him--and I mean no one--can tolerate him anymore. Ingrid is exhausted, Interns Kimmy and Tara are anxious-tired, and even a group of architects across the office who are working with him on a replacement hospital project are tired of and furious with him. He has gone from just insisting that people do their job with a high level of accountability, accuracy, and quality to treating architects like two-year interns and interns like children. No one takes it personally, per se: he treats everyone with the same level of grand mal douchebaggery. I've had him treat me like that last year while working on a project with Intern Timmy, and having him push and micromanage me the way he's been doing says two things about him:

One, he doesn't trust anyone to do a good job, even though architecture is all about trusting other people to do a good job. After all, if I've made it through five rounds of layoffs, I presume that I'm doing pretty well at DA. All of us who are still here after five rounds of layoffs ought to be pretty good at what we do. So what's with all the micromanaging? And if he finally buys into DA and becomes a partner, does he really think he's going to have the time to micromanage us the way he does now? The second thing this behavior says about him is that he clearly doesn't trust his own training of his staff. Many of us with whom he's worked closely over the past several months to years know how to do a good job, and we do it. I dare say that we present and recent-past members of Team Howie are the best architects and interns at DA because of his excellent training and mentorship. The fact that he's stepped up his micromanaging tells me that he doesn't trust us to do our jobs, the very jobs he trained us to do.

The reason this sucks is that it's making him impossible to work with. His coworkers and employees are exhausted, furious, anxious, and sometimes even to the point of tears after dealing with him. Sven told me recently that I would be working with Howie on a project, and I pulled Sven aside and explained that I'll be glad to work with Howie as long as Sven understands that I might have to have a li'l heart-to-heart with everybody's favorite Svengali-come-lately. I explained to a first-puzzled-then-surprised Sven about Howie's behavioral changes in the past two years. Sven (God and Renzo Piano love him) actually thanked me for letting him know about this and said that he might be able to help me smooth this out a little bit when Howie and I finally had to work together. We'll see how that plays out. But I am a little fearful that Howie's unbearable behavioral changes might get swept under the rug as profits start to expand in 2011 and as things get busier. Will anyone remember his douchery in even a month or so when we have reviews?

to be continued....

Monday, November 8, 2010

Iz birfday LOLZ!!!!

Today iz birfday of mai favorit sistur EVAR!!! Miss Kitty over at Educated & Poor is thirty-mnndghfs, so hop on over and wish her a happy birthday full of kittehs and doggehs and chikinz!!
funny pictures of cats with captions

Friday, November 5, 2010

What it's actually like to be an architect

I'm shamelessly stealing this from Lulu Brown over at her rather well-edited and decently-educational blog. I laughed my ass off at this.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Random picture for your mid-week enjoyment

Take a break, find somewhere quiet to sit, and enjoy a rainy early-autumn evening in Knoxville, TN. This little park just off of Market Square in the old part of downtown takes the place of a demolished building. I have to give grand mal props to whatever person or entity elected to fill this space with space and not building. The little trees in this courtyard streeeeeetch up to find some sky between the narrow three- to four-story buildings on each side and provide some shade and respite to those wandering through to the alley and business beyond, or to the waitstaff taking a smoke break from the restaurant on the right (where the concrete ramp is).

Monday, November 1, 2010

Monday Visual Inspiration: Miramont Castle, Manitou Springs CO

Recovering from a month's worth of a cold and working overtime, I thought I should at least post a few nice pictures from a weekend getaway to which Guy whisked me a few months ago. We spent the weekend in Manitou Springs, a few miles west of Colorado Springs and nestled in the shadow of Pikes Peak. More info about Miramont Castle is here; otherwise, enjoy a few shots from the Personal Photographic Collection of Pixie and Guy.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Scenes from a site walk, or, Adventures with Contractors

[Pixie, Yuri, Boris, and Ivan walk through part of an area under renovation in the Bierstadt Building on a weekly morning sitewalk]

Boris: So, we're wondering if we can remove this and maybe connect the casework and countertop all the way around the room... [puts his hand on a drywall bumpout in the corner of a room]
Pixie: Well, depends. Is there anything in there? Is it furring out around some pipes or something?
Ivan: I don't think so. Not that we could see from a ladder looking down into it.
Boris: Well, let's open it up and see. [turns around and shouts] Can we get a sledgehammer over here?
Yuri: [wordlessly lifts up size-16 workboot and stomps it through the drywall of the bumpout]
Boris: [turns around and shouts] Cancel the sledgehammer--we brought Yuri.

[The construction team inspects an exterior wall. Vlad arrives.]
Vlad: So, we should be getting the new storefront framing next week, so we can start demo of this existing storefront on Friday.
Pixie: Right on. I'd like to look at that ledge up on top of these windows. Is that just steel?
Boris: [cranes neck to look up] Yeah, just red iron. It's all over this building.
Yuri: [sits down a ladder near the exterior wall] Here you go, Pix.
[Pixie climbs the ladder and gets to the next-to-top step.]
Pixie: Um, I can't see the top, guys...
Yuri: [calls over shoulder] We need a taller ladder!
Pixie: [climbing down off ladder] You need a taller architect.

[The team proceeds into the main electrical room, where panels are being replaced and added.]
Vlad: We've gotten all the fireproofing in the wall penetrations here, so that's good.
Boris: Have you seen the fireproofer's ride? It's a van that looks just like the Mystery Machine!
Yuri: No way! Really?
Boris: Totally! He takes it to car shows--
Pixie: --parks it outside elementary schools, holds a bag of fun-size Snickers out the window...
Yuri: [struggles to stifle laughter] Oh, God, Pixie...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Contractors: the older brothers I never had, the cool kids I never got to hang out with

I don’t know why I like contractors so much. I mean, technically I should like them because they build the things I draw, and some of them build those things very well. To be fair, I don’t think I’ve ever met a bad contractor (and I’ve met very few bad subcontractors)—since I do healthcare and other large-scale commercial projects, I think that’s helped to separate the crap from the mulch*. But I just like being around them—I feel like I’m being allowed into an exclusive club, or even being allowed to observe a completely different species in its natural habitat.

We sit down around a folding table in the construction trailer at 7:30am, ready to start our OAC**. I have to do a job walk afterwards, so I’m wearing pants and closed-toe shoes, but I’m still dressed like I have a white-collar job. The contractors with whom I’m working on the Gestalt main floor renovation, Glasnost Construction, range in ages from late-20s to mid-50s. Leaning on the table with wide, tanned forearms, looking intensely at the meeting minutes and each other, Gestalt baseball caps covering the hair that’s been plastered down by hard hats for almost three hours already***, the various superintendents, foremen, and project engineers look like giants compared to me. Their XXL t-shirts stretched over barrel chests and chiseled biceps and 36- to 38-inch inseam jeans lapping over size-14 Redwing work boots belie a seemingly-unspoken hiring rule at Glasnost: you must be at least 6’-0” tall and 240 lbs to run a project. I’m not even kidding: the shortest contractor on my jobsite is the project engineer, Vlad, and he’s 6’-0” tall and in his early 30s, while the other three are 6’-2” (Boris, late 40s), 6’-5” (Ivan, early 40s), and 6’-7” (Yuri, late 20s). (The Glasnost project manager, Darko, is maybe 5’-9” and in his 50s, but he’s worthy of his own post, that guy.)

The size and cultural difference is most noticeable in the field. After the OAC, we walk around the parts of the main floor of the Bierstadt building under renovation. As we approach the job site, Yuri hands me a pink hard hat. “It’s not a statement about you, Pixie,” he says. “It’s just the only way we can guarantee that none of the other guys will wear your hardhat and get their head funk in it.” I tighten it down onto my head and walk into what looks like a street scene in Iraq—fluorescent lights hang crookedly while sparks fly from someone welding support steel for a coiling door across the room. I can look straight up to see wires, ducts, and even the underside of the next concrete floor above us. As I lift my leg to step over some construction debris, Ivan steps down onto it to flatten it out so I don’t have to step so far. I ask to look into a portion of the exterior wall that’s about eight feet above the floor, and someone produces a ladder. As I climb up, two large men hold the bottom—it’s overkill for stabilizing a ladder for someone barely over 120 lbs, but it’s very kind: don’t let the little architect fall. As Yuri and I take measurements of an undocumented fire extinguisher cabinet (we’ll have it deported the next day), a drywaller across the room lets loose with a string of F-bombs. Boris takes two steps towards the man and silences him with an icy glare: watch your mouth, there’s a lady present.

It’s educational and downright fun sometimes to hang out with contractors. You listen to them talk about past projects and problems they had on those projects and how they solved them. You even hear them describe, sometimes unintentionally, what makes a good carpenter/plumber/electrician/painter/whatever. You hear them gossip about other clients, even people they haven’t worked for. Turns out my Glasnost crew at Gestalt have friends who worked at MHRC back when I was working with Squidwort, and they heard what I saw firsthand—a research clinic with a lot of money and the entire management eating bowls full of crazy for breakfast every morning. I’ve found overall that the best way to work with contractors is not to assume that they’re always right or always wrong. They’ve seen some stuff, and you’ve seen some stuff, and between the two or three or twelve of you, you can find a way to solve anything.

*I hesitate to say the men from the boys, as I’ve met some good women contractors and carpenters. They’re few and far between in commercial work, but they do exist. My mom is one of them.

**“OAC” is short for “Owner-Architect-Contractor meeting”, which are held periodically to discuss progress on a project, bring up present or future concerns, discuss the best solution for intractable problems, and so on.

***In renovation projects where the building has to remain operational, contractors will often start work very early in the morning to get noisy stuff out of the way, like core drilling. Plus, starting early in the morning allows them extra time in the afternoon to fix something in case there’s a problem.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Monday Visual Inspiration: Introducing the 2010 Cavalcade of Mom Dresses

A few days before Mom arrived a couple weeks ago, a large box showed up at my office from Mom. My coworkers knew that could mean only one thing: dresses. When she arrived a couple of days later, we tried everything on and she marked where each dress needed tweaking. A few dresses shown here, namely the first and last ones, only needed hemming--they were perfect right out of the box. The second dress shown here is a true wrap dress that she sent a month or so ago, but I haven't posted on it. Eat your heart out, Diane von Furstenburg!

And so, I present to you, faithful WAD readers, the 2010 Cavalcade of Mom Dresses! (Model's face has been obscured to prevent PTSD in the general public.)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Monday Visual Inspiration: Shopping with Mom in Cherry Creek

The weekend with Mom has been great. We've risen around 7 or 7:30 most mornings, lingered over the paper and a few cups of coffee, then been off to the spa or some other funness. Saturday, we went to Cherry Creek, a tony shopping district in Denver. First, we had 90-minute massages (after which Mom could almost feel her left foot), then we stopped for a chai at Starbucks. Then, it was window shopping and kibbutzing time.

Shopping with Mom is always a treat. Her commentary on contemporary fashion and housewares crack me up. Related dialogue for each photo is below the image.

First stop was schmancy furniture store Room & Board.
Mom: What're those adironidack chairs made of?
Pixie: Um, looks like--
Mom: Looks like plastic.
Pixie: [walking up and tapping/scratching the chairs] Maybe some kind of phenolic or resin--
Mom: This shit is plastic. I know plastic. We have a Wal-Mart, people--I know what plastic looks like.

Next stop was the high-end retail clothing store Max.
Pixie: Could you make that dress?
Mom: Yeah, sure, it's um...
Pixie: Some kind of wool or flannel--
Mom: Christ! It's not even hemmed! It's just...fused!
Pixie: ......wha...?
Mom: Do you know what happens when you don't hem a knit? It unravels!
Pixie: Awfully expensive built-in obsolescence.

[Pixie and Mom walk into the store.]
Pixie: Hey Mom, how about this hemline.
Mom: No.

[walks further into the store]
Salesgirl: Hi, can I help you?
Mom: None of these dresses are hemmed! Just serged!!
Salesgirl: Um...that's, um, the style...[looks around] let me know if you need help. [walks away]
Pixie: [watching her go] She knows she's not going to sell us anything if you know what the word "serge" means and that these clothes aren't hemmed.
Mom: [feels of skin-tight grey dress] Holy shit! This is just super-thin sweatshirt material! That's all! And it's not hemmed either!
Pixie: [looks at tag] And it's $1100.
Mom: Christ, proud of it, aren't they?

Next stop was the windows at Mario di Leone.
Pixie: How about that blouse? I like the neck-thingy.
Mom: I can make that; it's just polished cotton. But she oughta button that shirt all the way and hide her tummy, even if she doesn't have a head.

Another small shop window.
Pixie: You like?
Mom: Not only can I make that, but it's really easy. It's the easiest thing I've seen all day...other than me.

In the Cherry Creek Mall, the Nordstrom's window.
Pixie: Oooh, WANT! How hard is that to make?
Mom: Oh, good lord. All they did is put a drawstring on the side to make the ruching. And I'm sure they want a kidney for it.
Pixie: And you can make it cheaper?
Mom: Sure, for half a pancreas.

Further into Nordstrom's.
Mom: Holy Moses! It's the same color as your Dress From Hell!
Pixie: Oooh, that'd be perfect to go over it!
Mom: [turning the jacket over and looking at the details] Hmm, that's two rows of ruffles and it's double-lined.
Pixie: And it's a St. John's. And they want $1295 for it.
Mom: [snaps a photo and mumbles] Fuck this, let's go to the fabric store.

At the fabric store.
Mom: Yes! It's gauzy, multicolored, and awesome!
Pixie: And when you use it, you don't even have to hem the edges! Just leave them raw!
Mom: $1100 dress, here I come!

Pixie: Ooh, that's pretty!
Mom: And it's see-through! Look!
Pixie: [snaps photo] What would you make with it?
Mom: A blouse for you! And you can wear it to work with just a bra!
Pixie: Raise and promotion, here I come!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Woohoo!! My mommy's here!1!!

Mom arrived in town yesterday, and we had drinks with Vinnie this evening. Tomorrow is a day of spa and drinks and hanging out...and no work. And yes, I have a deadline next week, and I've got a crapton of work to do. But I'm furious with my engineers and annoyed with my workload, and I just need to decompress and go for some long walks and try on some amazing dresses and just have a good time. My sister is trying to handle burnout, and I'm just about in the same place.

Fear not, though, my peeps: we'll be conducting a Mile High version of Ask Mom, and I'm sure we'll have some fun photos of wandering around Cherry Creek. Back in a few.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

What I wouldn't give for a nap right now

I apologize profusely for the lack of posts (and the crappy quality of what few posts I've done)--recently, three projects that have long been on hold have come back online with compressed deadlines..oh, and they all have something due one day after the next. I had to travel for work recently, and when I got back to town, all hell had broken loose. And another project had just been given the green light. And Sven put me on another big project that's just starting...with Howie. Deliver me.

It's like thing after thing after thing keeps coming at me. I worked last weekend before flying out on Sunday, and I'm working again this weekend. I suppose I can keep this pace up for a couple of weeks, but not for more than that. Plus, my mom is coming to visit next week (YAY!) and I've barely had any time to either clean the house and/or get excited about her visit.

Give me some time y'all, and I'll get back to some at least mildly interesting posts. I've had something funny and/or interesting things happen in the past month, and with a little time and rest I'll post on them.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Busy birthday

Efforts to post this week have been foiled by a sudden huge increase in workload brought on in part by a long-simmering project finally getting off to a roaring start, plus I have to leave Sunday for a work trip, only to return to Denver Tuesday night to spend my entire Wednesday in meetings. Which means I have to spend Saturday at work. And today. Which is mine's and Guy's birthday. I've been so busy lately that it sneaked/snuck up on me again.

[Edited to remove poor-quality photo]

I can't get this photo to show properly, but it's a picture of Guy as a 13-year-old (or so) on vacation in Wisconsin. He's so dreamy....**sigh**.....

Where was I? Oh yeah, worn out, and miles to go before I sleep. But Guy and I are going to spend this evening having a nice dinner and just enjoying each other's company and mere existence. Today, I turn 35 and Guy turns 42. And I must say that as I get older, my life, health, career, everything has gotten better.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday Visual Inspiration: Revived Places

Yes, another picture-laden post about a building. On an architecture site? No way! Do go on! Okay, I will.

During the same trip to Georgia in which I took photos of last week's abandoned house, my sister and I were coming back from a biscuit-laden breakfast at Cracker Barrel when she suddenly nipped into some back streets to show me this house. Evidently, it had languished for years until someone recently purchased it and spent a great deal of time (and I'm sure money as well) to restore it to something near its former glory.

Everything had been picked up on the exterior--the quadruple-colored eaves and pediments, so much a standard of Victorian residential architecture; the dark hardwood planks underneath the coach parking overhang, entry door raised high off the ground to accommodate transfer from a carriage straight into the house; the finely-detailed wood trim on top of wood trim next to even more wood trim at the entry; and even the steampunk-looking old-school doorbell in the middle of the front door.

Of course, we climbed and leaned and peered into the house to take a few shots, eager to see what wonders the new owners had worked on the interior. We were not left wanting for sights inside--while the kitchen was being updated with granite or solid surface countertops and stainless steel appliances, the front rooms were being fully restored to their former period-appropriate grandeur. Cruddy carpet had been ripped off of the stairs, revealing a dark, lush wood staircase below. Fireplaces--oh, the fireplaces!--were stripped of globs of paint and brought back to their original state, complete with elegant mirrored panels and small slivers of original ceramic tile hearths. Wood trim had been replaced or removed (where appropriate), and newly-restored and repaired 9-foot high pocket doors were seen peeking out of their old pockets, ready to slide back into service for a noble new century's use.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday Visual Inspiration: Abandoned Places

When I was last in Georgia visiting my peeps, I made my sister pull over on our way out to the country to visit Mom. Kitty pulled over in a dirt driveway so that I could finally jump out and take some pictures of a structure that we have for several years called "Maison de WTF."

Early to mid-2000s, someone began building a huge house back up on a hill about six or so miles from Mom's house, and it was the strangest damn thing we'd ever seen. It was huge--Atlanta McMansion huge--and was apparently made from CMU (cement block or cinder block, as y'all might call it) instead of the usual 2x4 or even 2x6 wood frame construction. Construction progress stalled out on it about six or so months after it started...and it never recommenced. One story we all heard was that a former Atlanta Falcon player was planning on moving to Small Town County or Booger County and ran through what was left of his fortune trying to build the dream country house he always thought he deserved. We never got a good story on it, though. Back in 2008 or 2009, the shadiest contractor in Booger County (who has also tried his hand at chicken farming, log truck driving, and preaching, all in the past three years) took on the project as a fix-n-flip...and took his sign down from the end of the driveway almost as soon as he had put it up.

When Kitty pulled over to let me hop out and snap a few shots, I cursed the fact that I'd put on a skort before leaving the house. I had dressed for the heat and humidity, but not for the long weeds and brambles that I'd have to face if I wanted to nose around in the fading glory of Maison de WTF. And oh did I long to nose around, to play forensic architect in these remains of post-millennial archi-cheez glory--I couldn't make heads or tails of the building's footprint or facades from my spot in what would have been the main part of the driveway/parking area at the house. Where the hell was the front door supposed to be? Perhaps the house had been designed to be the ultimate suburban house, where there is no front door and the only way in is a back door to the back yard or the door from inside the garage. It would have been a perfect summation of that residential building type: no one is allowed inside but family members; we are done with the outside world.

I was only able to trot up the driveway and get about 20 or 30 feet from the house and garage to snap a few pictures. As I tried to aim the camera into a window that I really couldn't reach, I also realized that the Georgia light was fading fast on me--I'd soon have to break out the flash to get any decent shots. As I snapped a couple of pictures of the tattered roofing underlayment and wisps of some sort of gauzy protective wrap on the building's parapets, my camera flashed and closed its lens--out of batteries. Like everything else involved with this building, my attempts to properly photograph it would go unfinished, out of energy and resources, fading like the evening light.