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March 31, 2008

Reading #18

Discussion questions/keywords/summary from/of:

"Mathematics and Creativity" by Alfred Adler in The World Treasury of Physics, Astronomy, and Mathematics
pages 435-446

Discussion Questions:

1.) Do you agree that mathematics is an "art?"
2.) Alder makes a statement that a mathematician is either great or nothing. Do you agree? He also makes no comment toward women, saying that nearly all mathematicians are "elder sons." What is your opinion on this?


Keywords:

1.) sinecures - A sinecure is a position requiring little or no work but giving the holder status or financial benefit.
2.) sophistry - Sophistry is the use of fallacious arguments, especially with the intention of deceiving.


Summary:
I found this article to be quite a pompous description of the "hard" life of a mathematician. Alder describes mathematics as the center of intellectual being, where true cerebral power waits to be tested. It is the pure language and the most intellectual and classical of the arts. And in it, if you fail, you will be deemed intellectually inferior to those who have "won," according to Alder. He also claims that after the age of twenty-five or thirty, the life of a mathematician is mostly over. He says that no great work will come of them after this time and that all greatness, if there is to be any, has already been achieved.
He also examines some of the principles of mathematics, namely the fact that nothing cannot be simply taken for true. There needs to be an extreme amount of skepticism.
He also attempts to play on the heartstrings of the readers, making them feel sympathetic to the superior intellect of the mathematician and his inability to communicate his advanced work with the general public. This, as Alder states, is the key reason why the insanity and suicide levels among mathematicians are "probably the highest of any of the professions." He also explains how their genius minds often make them incapable of doing banking, finance, or teaching, things that you would assume a mathematical whiz to be excellent at.

Reading #17

Discussion questions/keywords/summary from/of:

"Nature's Numbers" by Ian Stewart
pages 1-11

Discussion Questions:

1.) Do you believe that mathematics holds the capability to explain everything?
2.) Do you believe that mathematics can eventually explain our place on Earth and in the universe?


Keywords:

1.)fractals - Fractals are geometric shapes that repeat their structure on ever-finer scales.
2.) chaos - Chaos is a kind of apparent randomness whose origins are entirely deterministic.


Summary:
"We live in a universe of patterns."
Thus is the first line of this article and the basis of its content.
The entire article talks of "nature's pattern" and how it exists around us on every level. The motion of the earth, waves, dunes, and animal stripes are all clues into the laws that govern our world. Mathematics can be used to describe these laws. As Stewart states, "The simplest mathematical objects are numbers, and the simplest of nature's patterns are numerical." In addition to these numbers in nature, there are also geometric shapes like the circles in a rainbow or pond ripples. There are some patterns that are just now being discovered because we are just learning how to recognize them. Previously, we thought them to be completely random and formless, like clouds. However, searching for patterns and numbers in nature can be dangerous and difficult. It is hard to determine whether a pattern or sequence is significant and important or something trivial and coincidental.

March 13, 2008

Blog Prompt #6


Look for and document some examples of presentation/documentation styles that your term project may take as inspiration.

Good Resources include:
CMYK (Magazine)
PRINT (Magazine)
Graphis (Magazine)
Core 77 (Blog)

I scoured the internet for this prompt.
I searched through web page after web page of information on "good presentation design" and "excellent documentation styles."
But I really didn't find much on what I was looking for.

I guess that is because the biggest source of inspiration that I have encountered has been....well....the class presentations that have been given in Professor Saloojee's and Van Duzer's lectures. Yeah, it might sound cheesy, but really, I am not lying. I am not not going for the blog of the week here...I have never seen presentations graphically laid out like that before. In my small town of Hickville, U.S.A., a "well-designed" powerpoint was an oxymoron. No joke. A powerpoint meant slap a picture and some bullets on a slide and leave 'er at that. I was one who always tried to "design" a powerpoint to be aesthetically pleasing, but I didn't really realize how childish and ignorant they probably were until I attended my first architecture lectures. I found their presentations to be clean, concise, and visually appealing. Often, I found myself waiting in anticipation to see what the next image will be and how it will relate to the lecture.

Geeky?

Maybe.
But I really do enjoy the visual aspect of my architecture day.

For our research presentation, I would like to incorporate this "visual" idea. I would like to have some sort of clean and concise imagery with little text (as in class) to go along with our verbal recitations. I want to reinforce what we are saying with the visuals, not blind them with paragraphs of text.

March 7, 2008

Quote o' the Day

I really like quotes.

I like looking up quotes that describe how I am feeling. I like the reassurance that I get from them. Whenever I find one that hits my emotions right on the metaphorical head, it is comforting in a way to know that someone, somewhere knows or once knew exactly what I am going through. I like their motivating and inspirational qualities. I also like their ability to make me laugh or cry at times and their ability to bring back memories and history.

Main Idea: I really like quotes.

Acting upon this, I decided that my blog could use a lil' bit of quotation love once in a while. My pick for this entry is from reading #13 by Norman Crowe. I don't know exactly why, but these worlds really resonated with me. I think it is mainly because of my childhood. I grew up near a small town on 40 acres of forest, so all of my youthful play pretty much revolved around the outdoors. Ultimately, nature is very much a part of who I am.

So, here it is - the Quote o' the Day.

"The man-made world is an alternative nature, so to speak, created by artifice and born as a human reflection of the wonder we find in the natural world - the heavens, the seasons, landscapes and seascapes, plants and animals."
-Norman Crowe

Reading #14

Discussion questions/keywords/summary from/of:

"Nature and the Idea of a Man Made World" by Norman Crowe
pages 29-69

Reading #13

Discussion questions/keywords/summary from/of:

"Nature and the Idea of a Man Made World" by Norman Crowe
pages 3-28

Discussion Questions:

1.) It is stated in the text that it is human compulsion to create architecture rather than simply functional shelter. Do you think this is really a human compulsion? Or is it simply just a human capability?
2.) They say that no one is perfect, but do you believe architectural perfection can be achieved?


Keywords:
1.) caprice - I saw it used in the text, but wasn't familiar with its meaning. Caprice is (according to www.dictionary.com) a sudden, unpredictable action, change, or series of actions or changes.
2.) harmony - Harmony is a state of being achieved when there is an observable state of balance between the built world and nature.


Summary:
This text was a very interesting examination of the relationship of man and the man-made world to nature. Crowe begins by declaring that the root of all human knowledge lies deep within nature. Both nature and the man-made world are intrinsically interconnected. Thus, our understanding of nature has a great influence on the way we approach the environment and our man-made creations. To quote Crowe, "the man-made world is an alternative nature, so to speak, created by artifice and born as a human reflection of the wonder we find in the natural world - the heavens, the seasons, landscapes and seascapes, plants and animals." He also presents another intriguing idea. He writes that our knowledge of nature and our connection with it might be so imbedded in us that we subconsciously act with regard to it (I thought this was pretty cool!).

There is also a lot of description regarding what the "ideal balance" is between nature and the man-made world. As it turns out, there is no universal measure of what this perfect level is because it is culturally conditioned and personal for each and every one of us. We all have our own vision of the correct "balance" and our own image as to what our world should be like. Regardless of this, it is impossible to ignore the fact that all of these indivual views are at risk because of current ecological threats that are being imposed on our earth through industry growth and resource exploitation.

March 6, 2008

The DL on the SL

MNIC.jpg

For my service learning aspect of Architecture 1701, I am volunteering at Minnesota Internship Center (MNIC). The MNIC location that I work at is essentially a charter school for high-school-aged students that are not at a high-school level academically. It serves primarily immigrants, the majority of who are from Somalia. The main focus for the students is to pass the Minnesota Basic Standard Tests (BSTs), which is required to receive a graduate diploma. I volunteered there last semester as part of Design Fundamentals I and when this semester rolled around, I decided to continue at the same location.

This fall, however, I was very nervous about beginning my service learning for many reasons.
1.) I was a freshman – new at the whole college thing. From the beginning, I was stressed over my new classes, activities, environment, and workload. Then, unexpectedly, we were all told that as part of class requirement, we had to take time on our own to figure out a volunteering schedule with an assigned organization somewhere in Minneapolis. It was up to us to find time and figure out how to get there. It was the first year Design Fundamentals was designated as a service-learning course so this announcement came as a complete surprise to most of us. Volunteering has always been a passion of mine, but I always did it through my own will. In a way, I felt that this volunteering requirement was forced upon us. I was already struggling to figure things out and the thought of having to coordinate this was overwhelming for a while.
2.) I was in a huge city coming from a country town – I had no idea where the heck I was going 99.9% of the time. The Metro Transit system and Minneapolis navigation was Greek to me.
3.) As much as I didn’t want it to bother me, I was nervous about working with students from so many different backgrounds. During orientation, we were given a list of different gestures and sayings that we could not use because they could be interpreted inappropriately. For example, the “come here? finger motion is considered vulgar by many of the students. I was afraid I would accidentally say something that would offend them or hurt their feelings, which was the last thing I wanted.

Luckily, once I got into the swing of things, it wasn’t nearly as worrying. However, it was far from being easy. I was placed in the classroom of Mr. Kassim, a grammar teacher of Somali origin. His students were very beginners to the English language. Some of them could string together simple sentences while others couldn’t speak a word at all. It was quite a culture shock my first day as I sat and listened confusedly to nouns and verbs being taught solely in Somali. It was even more of a shock as I struggled to understand instructions given to me with a Somali accent.

As time went on, my tasks in the classroom varied. In the beginning, I was simply there to help students with their homework. Often, I helped them with more than just grammar. Math problems came up frequently. I was also asked regularly about the meaning of certain words or what the word for an object was in English (Answering them proved to be very difficult being that many had a very limited vocabulary. I would explain the concept of a garden hose in English, but I could tell from the look on their faces that they did not understand. Not knowing how to communicate often left me feeling helpless). Sometimes, Mr. Kassim would have me run through vocabulary out loud for the entire class. He explained that he wanted the students to hear the words with “American pronunciation? so I would read and class would repeat what I’d said. By the end of my semester in his class, my role had taken even more responsibility – I was actually teaching. Every day I was there, Mr. Kassim would divide the class. He would lecture one half while I went through lessons with the other. We worked on everything from writing out number words to making sentences using prepositional phrases. One day, I remember explaining to a group of girls the concepts of “aunt and uncle? and “grandma and grandpa.?

I was sad to leave when the semester ended, but was excited for the opportunity to volunteer again in 1701. This time around, I was placed in a life science classroom. The kids in the class are a bit more advanced and can speak English quite well. The teacher, Carrie, is extremely nice and was very welcoming. I help the students with science projects and worksheets, answering questions and providing aid. It has come to be something I thoroughly enjoy and look forward to. Every day is a new experience.

A few weeks ago, the students were working on a worksheet in which they were required to match up life processes they had been studying, like “reproduction? and “gathering food,? to given examples. I was standing off to the side, waiting to see if anyone had difficulties, when suddenly a boy’s hand shot up. I went over to him.

“Teacher, I do not understand,? he said.

I looked at the paper. He was pointing to one of the given examples: “The camel eats grass.?

I asked what he was confused about.

“Do you know what life process that might be??

“No, teacher,? he replied. “I do not understand. Camels do not eat grass.?

I looked at him slightly puzzled. Not knowing what to say, I commented, “Oh…they don’t??

“No.? he said. “In Somalia, camels do not eat grass. They eat the rainforest. I have only seen them eat the rainforest.?

I was quite surprised. I’m sure that when the worksheet was made, no one thought twice about the concept of a camel eating grass. They probably thought it was a simple situation – the difficult part should have been matching the processes, not comprehending the example.

Another day, the class was discussing animals and the questions they had concerning them. The subject turned to snakes and reptiles. A student raised his hand and commented that one morning in Somalia, he woke up to find a giant snake curled next to his bed.

Some time later, I was walking through the hallway. Up ahead I could see strange objects lying on the floor, but could not discern what they were. As I came closer, I saw that they were shoes, nearly a dozen pairs, all scattered near a large door. I looked up and noticed a paper sign taped to the white paint. The words “PRAYER ROOM? contrasted sharply in large black font.

The little things like this are what I love about volunteering. I truly learn something new about the students or about life in general each and every day. It was indeed difficult at first to be pushed out of my comfort zone in such a strange, new, college environment, but I do not regret it. I have learned so much about my self and the world I live in that I would never take it back. I just hope that I have helped the students as much as they’ve helped me.



(logo from http://www.mnic.org/)

March 5, 2008

Blog Prompt #5

Prompt:

Explore through image and text how the built environment affects (supports or detracts) who you are. Speculate in terms of frameworks clockworks, phenomena and oppositions.

The built environment is all around us. It is in the classrooms we study in and the sidewalks we walk upon. It is in our bedrooms, our bathrooms, our restaurants, and skyscrapers. It is even in our man-made lakes and landscaped parks. The built environment consists of any environment that we create for ourselves and our daily living. We interact with and based on its construction, function, and design, it can ultimately have a powerful affect on how we go about our lives.

However, the built environment is not often the most inviting or welcoming place. In many cases, it presents itself as desolate and uninviting, even threatening. When I think of bleak environments, my thoughts automatically gravitate to one place – one place that is central to my existence as a college freshman – the infamous dormitory known as Territorial Hall (cue dramatic “dun-dun-dun? music).

Now, I am not really complaining. The rooms in “T-Hall? are not the worst a college could offer. They each have carpeting and even air conditioning. The closets are quite big and there is enough room for two people to live relatively un-cramped. For the most part, they are satisfactory. But the construction and building attributes of the dorm are far from being conducive to educational and creative pursuits.

IMG_1685.JPG IMG_1689.JPG

The building is a framework of rooms. Every hallway and every space is exactly the same cookie-cutter shape and style. The white walls and florescent lighting gleam dully around every corner and the hall exudes a feeling more like that of an institution than a comfortable home. One word can describe the entire plan of the building: blah. The walls are paper-thin as well, so you can hear all about your neighbor’s relationship and social issues even if you don’t want to. The whole layout of the place is stifling and constricting. You are almost guaranteed zero privacy and zero opportunities for peaceful thinking about 95.5% of the time.

However, even in the bleakest and dimmest sense, the built environment like that in Territorial Hall offers us a blank slate - a blank canvas to express who we are as individuals. When we inhabit any space for any amount of time, we gravitate towards personalization. It's an instinctive phenomenon. We have natural tendencies to make our environment “our own? in a sense, to make us feel more comfortable and secure in our surroundings. At the start of the year, we were each plopped down in the most boring of spaces. But as time progressed, a clockwork situation evolved. Gradually, we added things to personalize our furniture and walls. Now, when you stroll through the hallways, it is not hard to find rooms exploding with colors, posters, and fluffy accessories in each person’s attempt to make their bland space more like home. At the end of the year, we will take everything down and pack up, returning everything to its original lackluster state. When next year’s freshman come to the U of M, “process personalization? will begin all over again.

Used_Office_Cubicle_3.jpg

613159793_18269d45b0.jpg

This idea carries over into all inhabited space. The cubicles of an office building are almost always garnished with plants, trinkets, and family photos of the occupant. Even in prisons there is often some sense of personalization in inmate’s cells. Take Hannibal Lector for example. He did a little Martha Stuart-esq interior decorating of his own inside the cell he was kept in. It was creepy, but he made the space more comfortable for himself.

silence-of-the-lambs-lector-cell.jpg

In all cases, human beings seek to personalize their surroundings and render them more livable. The built environment can make every attempt to limit the expression of character and detract from who we are, but I believe that no matter what, people will always find ways of making a space their own.



(pictures from my photos and http://www.best-horror-movies.com/image-files/silence-of-the-lambs-lector-cell.jpg, http://www.cubicles4less.com/Used_Office_Cubicle_3.jpg, http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1306/613159793_18269d45b0.jpg)

March 2, 2008

Reading #12

Discussion questions/keywords/summary from/of:

"Architecture as Space" by Bruno Zevi
pages 22-72

Discussion Questions:

1.) How important to you feel the concept of space is to architecture?
2.) It is mentioned that the problem of how to represent space is far from ever being solved - and has yet to even be stated. What do you think about this statement?


Keywords:
1.) interior space - Interior space is the space which surrounds and includes us. It is how we base our aesthetic opinion of the architecture.
2.) scale - Scales is the relation between the dimensions of a building and the dimensions of a man.


Summary:
These chapters deal with the issue of space in architecture. He describes space as the great protagonist of architecture and its struggle to actually define it. He also goes in depth over the difficulties of representing 3-d space on paper while keeping true to its actual form.

Reading #11

Discussion questions/keywords/summary from/of:

"The Web of Life" by Fritjof Capra.
pages 3-35

Discussion Questions:

1.) Do you agree or disagree with Capra's argument that leaders of today are failing to see how different problems are interrelated and are overlooking how their "solutions" affect the future?
2.) In your opinion, what has brought us to make "creating sustainable communities" the "great challenge of our time?"


Keywords:
1.) "crisis of perception" - This is a calamity that stems from the issue that most of us have an "outdated" viewpoint of the world and a "perception of reality inadequate for dealing with our overpopulated, golbally interconnected world."
2.) "sustainable society" - A sustainable society is one that is able to meet its own needs without endangering the lives of future generations.


Summary:
This excerpt centers on a "new scientific understanding of life at all levels of a living system." Capra stresses that the world is suffering from a great crisis of perception. Everyone seems to hold an outdated view of the world and often do not realize how problems are deeply interwoven and cannot be understood as separate entities. The new understanding of life that Capra discusses is something he calls "deep ecology." It involves spiritual understanding and connection with the world around us. He also discusses ethics/values and their importance to deep ecology. In the second section, he goes on to detail the evolution of thought involving deep ecology and an interconnected-ness in the world.