Thursday, February 25, 2010

A few pictures from the weekend

While today is technically our fifth anniversary, we took our trip last weekend. The rates were better and it worked for our schedules. A few highlights:

After arriving in Vegas on Friday morning, we did a little outlet shopping (mostly looking) and then went to dinner with Baxtersmum. On our way back from the fantastic restaurant where we met her, we passed our old haunt, Circus Circus, where we stayed during our honeymoon (now referred to as "our Hunter S. Thompson honeymoon", because you really need to be high on ether to enjoy the carpet in there).

The scene as we pulled into the Venetian. Guy would stay elsewhere in Vegas, but I love their spa way too much to stay anywhere else.

The next night, we had dinner at a great Tex-Mex restaurant in the Venetian, near the indoor gondola channel....

...where we promptly spent part of our meal staring at the ceiling and wondering how they got away with painting the escutcheon plates for the pop-down concealed sprinklers.

It was off to the Rio for the Penn & Teller show, but before that we enjoyed a "Carnivale In The Sky" in the casino area. "Floats" hung from the ceiling and slid by on roller coaster-like tracks while very attractive and in-shape dancers threw beads at us. One of them clocked me in the head, but I caught the beads.

As always, we have to know how it works. Here's the opening in the casino wall that allows the "floats" to enter the casino ceiling space. It's hidden behind a curtain.

The stage the Penn & Teller show. They ask people to come up on stage and sign an envelope and look at a wooden box on the stage. As the show starts, Teller pops out of the empty box. Very cool. The envelope is also used in a trick, but it's kinda hard to explain here.

One of the hallways at the Canyon Ranch Spa at the Venetian/Palazzo. Squee!

On Monday, I'll post about Liebskind's building at City Center Las Vegas. It deserves its own post.

Monday, February 22, 2010

I'll see your anniversary and raise you a good weekend...

We just got back into town from a quick weekend in Vegas for our fifth wedding anniversary. Technically, our anniversary is this week, but going there this weekend was better cost-wise, plus we got to spend the night with my GA Tech and interwebs pal Baxtersmum (and her naughty pup and awsum girthulent kittehs!). I'll post pix later this week, but for now, I've got to do some cleaning around the house and get back into the swing of things at work.

Friday, February 19, 2010

No matter how many times I see this, it's still funny.

I first saw this in grad school, between 1998 and 2000. It's still funny as hell.

Watch superfriends wassup in Comedy | View More Free Videos Online at

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sign-off, schmign-off

Today, we're supposed to get sign-off for two departments in the remodeling of the Bierstadt Building for Gestalt HMO. But just yesterday, I got several emails from the Gestalt project manager I'm working with--she reviewed the plans with her boss, and her boss had changes at this late hour. Thing is, we're about to make these changes and then walk into the sign-off meeting and say "oh by the way, someone else at the Facilities Department of your institution decided we need to move this storage area over here and flip the check-in line for your department all the way across the room. Ready to sign off?"

Sign-off is important for a design team. We present a plan to the users of a department, and all the people who have a say in the project sign the drawing confirming that they agree with this plan, and that they will be consulted if it changes in any major way. We now have a document that says we all understand what the users need and want and have asked for, so if at any point in the future we've forgotten something, they users can point to the plan and say "see? there it is, you forgot this and we need it." Conversely, if the owner or a user complains about some part of the plan, we can point to the drawing and say, "well you agreed to this four months ago--if you want it changed in any major way, you will owe us additional services."

The other thing is, we need sign-off so that we can move forward on the rest of the drawings for the project. When we stop changing the floor plan, the engineers can start doing their stuff, and we can start making the drawings that allow the contractor to price and build the project. And work is so hard to come by right now that we'd really really like to start working on this project right now--that goes for architects, engineers, and contractors.

But I bet we're not getting sign-off today. Not with these changes.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Meanwhile, back in Architectureland, where there's a tiny silver lining...

First of all, many many thanks to all of you who have emailed and commented your sympathies regarding Maddy. I really and truly appreciate all the kind words, thoughts, and prayers. This has been a rough couple of weeks and an especially painful few days; it's been hard to care about anyone's stupid AIA continuing ed credits and their waiting room layouts. I've tried my best to do the work I had been assigned and to stay professional, but I often found myself running to the ladies' room just to keep from punching someone or crying.

On Thursday, before I left at the end of the day, I got a call from Sven. (You'll remember that Sven is the partner at DA with whom I work on Gestalt HMO's various and sundry remodeling projects.) I wearily lifted the receiver and said hello, and Sven said in his supercalm voice, "Hi Pixie, you rock."

I chuckled. "Oh, well thanks, sir. You rock, too."

"No, I mean you really rock," he said, his typical casual, friendly tone becoming a little more formal and earnest. "You get things done fast, and well, and you're a great space planner, and you're really good and comfortable in the user group meetings. I don't even know why I go to them any more--you got 'em."

I accepted the compliment with as much grace as I could muster, we traded a couple of jokes, and then he asked me to find some drawings for someone and send them out. I said I would (though obviously that's going to happen this week instead of last week), and we hung up. It was a nice relief in the middle of a painful and stressful situation--layoffs, continuing ed coordination, Maddy--to have someone give me a professional and sincere compliment. With the exception of one social obligation Guy and I had on Sunday, I spent most of the weekend just being quiet and kind to myself, going for walks, doing my nails, reading cheezy fashion magazines, and occasionally letting grief wash over me and then subside. As I reenter the work world this week, it's good to have a few more kind words in my head to ease the frustration and tiresome pace that I must now recommence.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Goodnight, my angel

At 1:35pm MST yesterday, February 12, 2010, Guy and I released Maddy's soul back to the Universe and helped her to the Rainbow Bridge. She went peacefully, without any pain or hesitation. She was ready, so Mama had to be ready with her as well. She was just a couple of weeks shy of being 12 years old.

Towards the end, Maddy was obviously no longer feeling good but was not yet pooping herself or really really hurting. Many folks told me that when it was time, Maddy would "let me know". While talking with a friend of mine last night who lost a cat to cancer and old age, she observed, "You sent her along before she needed to give you The Look and 'let you know'. That was a really good thing actually."

Before she went, I think she and Hazel made their peace, after Maddy spent nearly all of their 12 years together kicking Hazel's butt. They were able to coexist peaceably on the chaise together, sometimes on the bed, and even in the closet occasionally.

Maddy spent a lot of time in the closet, and I kept going in there to pet and snuggle her, knowing that her time was coming. One day early this week, I came in to find Hazel running interference for her. "Mama, back off--Maddy needs her rest!"

Thursday night, Maddy sat on the futon with me, and we watched the snowstorm charge towards the Southeast, at which point I'm sure it was sending all of my sister's town into a bread-and-milk-buying frenzy. She let me pet her now-near-emaciated body gently, so I didn't make anything hurt but did provide a little massage. She purred and tried to rest.

Friday I took the day off from work, and Maddy and I laid on the chaise and read a bunch of fashion magazines that Aunt Kitty kindly sent us. We flipped the pages while I pet her, and we clucked our tongues over the dubious fashion choices of Rihanna and Lady Gaga. I pulled the blinds all the way back so that Maddy could see the balcony and the view outside. As the sky went sunny to cloudy to sunny again, I whispered to her through tears, "Today is a good day, sweet pea. Today is a good day." She chirpy-purred her assent.

I scooped up her frail, soft body and took her for one last tour of the Happy Kitten Highrise: here's the balcony where we shared many wonderful summers together, playing in the "garden" and snoozing; here's the closet where you and Hazel stayed warm each winter, so touch noses with Hazel for one last time (they did); here's the bedroom where you've woken me up just before my alarm clock every morning for nearly nine years, here's the TV room where we all hung out and watched TV or a movie and you sat on Papa's lap while he played computer games. Then we put he in the carrier (which she still fought with what little strength she had, Bastet bless her!) and we went to the vet. The vet put us in a nice, quiet room with a sofa and some candles, and we held her and said our final goodbyes, my tears wetting down her soft fire-colored fur, and she breathed gently while the vet gave her the final two shots that would take all the pain away and then stop her heart.

And then she was gone.

I never realized all the things I do around the house because of her. I walk a certain way because she was always underfoot. Everytime I walk into the bathroom, I reflexively look into my shower/toilet room to see if she's laying on the rug, and I perk my ears as I walk by my closet to see if I can hear her in there. I've spent a great deal of nearly every night since June of 2000 (when I moved to Denver) sleeping on my left side so that I could pet or spoon with Maddy, both in my downtown loft (which was cold as hell, so Maddy actually slept under the covers with me) and here at the HKH. I touch the indentation in the back of the chaise where she was just hours before, and it hits me that she is truly gone, and the sadness is raw and fresh again. And I weep.

As I write this, dawn is just about to break over the Mile High City. The sun is coming up red-orange and faded ultramarine in the southeast, more pinkish and faded watercolor-cobalt blue in the northeast. The dawn causes Capitol Hill's buildings to reflect back a gentle, grayish-white glow. The building across from ours now reflects my building in its windows. A few more cars are driving by on the major streets outside--the world is waking up but not totally awake yet. In my condo, Hazel is curled up on a horse blanket in a chair near my desk in the living room. I occasionally hear her snore (*gzzzzz*) and even purr. Across the living room, the back cushion of the chaise sits crooked, bearing a dent still left behind by the kind, furry soul who once lay on it. I weep still for that kind, furry soul. She was an integral part of my life, my being. She was with me through so many things, so many ups and downs, never judging or blaming or getting angry with me, and always forgiving when I was angry with her or anyone. No matter what had transpired during the day, she would hop! up into bed with me at night, purring and licking my hand, just wanting to be part of the pack.

Goodnight, my angel. I carry you with me forever in my heart and in my memory. May you be comforted on the other side, and until I see you again, know that I love you so much and miss you more than I can describe.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Putting down the heaviest burden

I scheduled Maddy's final appointment for Friday.

She's started stumbling when she walks and has stopped eating, even drinking the milk from my cereal. She stays in the closet or in the bathroom, but last night she ambled into the bedroom and crawled up onto my side of the bed, curled up, and looked up as if to say, "Ready to go to bed wif you, Mama!"

She laid on the bed with me all night, alternating purring with twitching/jerking all of a sudden. Even this morning she got up and left for a couple of minutes, and then came right back. Hop, purr, snuggle.

It's so hard to look at this little face and know that she'll be gone soon, and I'm the one who has to do it. I alternate weeping heavily with calmly accepting this fact. It's hard sometimes when she's being sweet and curled up by me, but I know that it's not getting any better for her, only getting worse. I want to release her soul back to the Universe while she still has some dignity, not pooping herself in the closet and dragging around the house. Forgive me for a while as I shut off the laptop and enjoy these last days with my beautiful, wonderful furry friend.

Monday, February 8, 2010

You have got to be freaking kidding me.

We had yet more layoffs on Friday at Design Associates. Only two people, that any of us can confirm anyway, but still two fewer people. And it was who was laid off that was insulting: an architect in his 50s who had been at DA for about 8.5 years and was working on Gestalt HMO with me and a couple of other guys, and an intern who was an absolute Revit whiz and the closest thing we had to a CAD/Revit manager since Sarge was laid off in 2008. This came on the heels of news of two other office departures: one, a youngish licensed architect (like me) was moving out of state; and two, one of our associates (an older licensed architect who was salary and got a bigger portion of the profits than us hourly folk) accepted a position with a consulting engineering/contractor/developer firm. I guess DA figured that with four people gone in the first quarter of '10, we could hold out a while longer. But really? An intern and an architect, both hourly people who actually did the work? Were they making so much that it would make a difference if we laid them off? Of the 40+ people that DA has laid off in the past 18 months, they've only laid off two higher-ranking salary people. So who's going to do the work when it comes back? Or are we just gonna figure that out once we get there?

I'm not as perturbed as I should be about this: Maddy's impending trip over the Rainbow Bridge tends to put all else into perspective. But I am somewhat annoyed by this latest move, which I can't even pretend to explain. This move is truly affecting us workwise--Norman, a longtime friend and colleague of mine (and an associate) was alarmed to find out that the Revit-guru intern was let go. "I'm working on a deadline with him for next week!" he hissed as he knelt in my desk/cubicle area. "I was helping out his team, and I'm barely capable in Revit--we were counting on his help to make this deadline!" I too felt the frustration--the architect that was let go was to be working on the renovation project of one of the floors of the Bierstadt building for Gestalt--and had just been at an OAC/planning meeting last week--so now who's taking over his work?

Furthermore, as a result of these little layoffs, I have inherited one of the most time-consuming and thankless tasks in the office: I am the new office coordinator for the AIA continuing education seminars/Lunch-n-Learns. The intern who was laid off was the latest person to do this, and as he handed me everything and showed me where to find all the presentation schedules and stuff online at the AIA and on our server, he said, "Pixie, I'm really sorry to dump all of this on you--it's not fair to do this on such short notice, and it's not fair for the partners to ask you to do this." I assured him that this wasn't his fault and not to apologize, and he gave me his home email account in case I had any questions on it. Then he said ominously, "This is going to take up way more of your time than you ever imagined."

"Isn't there a billing code for time spent doing this?" I asked.

The intern laughed. "If you find one, I wish I'd known about it."


So now I have to make sure I get done everything that I need to do on Gestalt, hop on TCMC occasionally to check, find, or fix something, be the front person for an ED remodel that's just starting up, and then be available to organize the seminars and meet the presenters and get them set up and then sit through presentation after presentation and then file the seminars with AIA and muck through their website...all in 36 hours a week or less. And did I mention that the last five people who coordinated the AIA seminars have been laid off?

I'm going to go sit in the closet with Maddy and Hazel. There seems to be a lot less stupid in there.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Update and thanks

First off, thank you to all the kind people who have posted or emailed sympathies and good wishes for Maddy and me. Earlier this week, we thought Maddy was done and we were going to have to make that Final Appointment. However, the day I made the appointment, she perked right up and wanted some extra tuna. This left me in great distress--was she ready to go? Not ready to go? She wasn't herself anymore, but she wasn't acting fed up and completely tired an annoyed...? After consulting with her regular vet, her vet oncologist, a couple of friends, and my awesome pal Vinnie, I canceled the appointment.

Vinnie was oddly the one who helped the most. As I weepingly described her symptoms and behaviors and my inner turmoil, he cut me off. "Pixie, you don't sound like you're ready to do this, so don't." he said. "When she's ready, you'll be ready, and you can do it, knowing that you've done all you could do."

I sighed heavily. "But we're supposed to go to Vegas in a couple of weeks, and no one's gonna come to our house to hand-feed her tuna--"

"If she makes it another week or another month, you'll figure it out," Vinnie said calmly. "You can board her with the vet or hire a vet tech to come visit. But she might not make it that long. She'll go when she's damn good and ready to go." He paused, then said gently, "Damn cats."

Dealing with a really-sick-and-fixin'-to-die creature is an exercise in mindfulness and being present. When Maddy is slowly nomming and licking a small portion of wet food or tuna or barely lapping at a saucer of milk, there's no walking around and doing other things while she eats. If I walk away from her, she sometimes quits eating, or Hazel will walk up and nudge her over so she can have some of the good food too. Sometimes, like with the tuna, she'll only eat it off my fingers at first and then and only then will she eat it off the dish in the floor. I have to build that extra five minutes of super-mindful-present feedings into my mornings so I can still have time to get ready for work. And the same goes for quiet time together: whether I'm sitting next to her reading a magazine in the bathroom floor or whether I've brought her into the TV room to watch the Weather Channel for three hours straight, I can't get up and sit back down half a dozen times like I usually do. Every time I get up, she'll leave the room and go back to the closet, so if I want company to pet and snuggle and massage and listen to purrs, I have to sit down and stay down. I also realize, in those moments, how precious all those moments are. How wonderful is it to get to know another creature so well, to have that creature present in so many different stages of your life, and for it to trust you enough to let you shove pills down its throat nearly every day for 18 months. I bet if I did that to Guy, he wouldn't be so tolerant.

While all of this has been going on, I'm still working on Gestalt HMO's remodeling projects, the progress of which seems to be picking up steam. We still don't have a schedule for the projects yet (when do we want everyone moved in and operational in their new spaces? You don't know? What?!), but we're working towards it. I'll write more about that process later. For now, I'm enjoying these late days and hours with my kitteh, curled up near me and softly purring while I spend a moment of quiet in m otherwise busy days.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

MaddyWatch: Any snooze worth taking is worth snoozing right

Oh hai, Mama! I'm trying to rest and stay warm under the heat lamp in your bathroom. Well, I could rest better if a) you'd stop peeing in here all the time, and b) if I could be a little more comfortabuhls...

What is this? You say you have sumpin for me? I just have to get up off the carpet square for a moment? Well...okay, but just for a quick moment...

You have got to be kidding me.

A fleece Hello Kitty blanket that Grandma Wilderness Gina maded? Srsly, you think I'm going to lay on this to convalesce, you must be out of your minnssndfffmmgg.....


Monday, February 1, 2010

Monday Visual Inspiration: Touching the Sky

We often think about how a building looks at street level, or maybe from a little bit of a distance away, because that's how we experience it. Despite the fact that we live in a world of structural and physical wonders, we rarely look up to see how buildings touch the sky. Quick quiz--what does the top of your workplace building look like? The top of your house/apartment building? The top of your grocery store? Is it brick all the way up? Is there a metal cap on it? Is it flush (in the same plane) as the rest of the building's face, or does it stick out?

I went for a walk this weekend and took a few photos of building tops. Comments on the photos are just below each image.

A perfect blue Colorado sky with one dissipating vapor trail, and the edge of the building cantilevering out strongly against the textured copper screen of its facade.

Compare this same building with the one across the street. Its top ends flush with the face, but it uses a little awning for some visual interest (and to keep direct sun out of those retail spaces).

Another horizontal roofline, but this time it's making use of the space just below by covering a patio and railing. Notice how the thickness of the roof edge is about the same as the thickness of the white band of metal panel below the railing. It's almost like they planned it.

A magic-and-toy shop in Cherry Creek North uses its roofline to stand out amongst the rest of the hoity-toitytude of its high-end retail neighbors. Campy and yet noble, I say.

The Cherry Creek Ross Library is being remodeled inside, but thankfully they're leaving the outside alone--I love this building. The red metal panel fin at the street corner not only strikes a graceful pose against a winter sky, it also directs you to the library's front door.

A pedestrian enough office building, but this circular fin-thing begs the question--is this purely artistic, or can you use the space underneath it?

The tops of churches are often the most interesting too look at because they had to be for so much of history. You're supposed to be able to see them from far away and know what they are by looking at the tall cross on the highest part of the roof.

But what happens on the back side of that clean, stone-capped edge of the brick facade? Well, you have to provide flashing to keep the water out. This isn't really meant to be seen, but because of this small church's corner location, you kinda can't not see it.

A run down house was leveled to build this modern-looking duplex in Capitol Hill. I like it overall, but I wonder if I like it because it's really good or because it has Target Syndrome--it's modern looking and made out of clean moderny-modern materials, therefore everyone assumes it's good. Anyway, I like the way the different pieces of it sit against the sky. It's like three different buildings that still all belong together because of their clean lines and their scale.