April 29, 2008

Homework n’ Hoops Week 9


There was an article Angel showed me today in a newspaper I have never heard of called The Militant. It was about how his father is still fighting back against the 15 layoffs at Damico & Sons of which he was included. It was an interesting paper in that it was greatly socialist oriented and advertised some of Marx’s writings. Spring fever was in the air again today, seeing as how many of the little boys were exceedingly rebellious. Luckily, Angel was great today and did his homework without my needing to keep him on track. For the sake of the other tutors, however, I hope the other kids calm down.

There was one problem which I noted today when we were in the computer lab. Ordinarily, I would have ignored it, but this is the second time it has happened. Angel and I tried to print off a Word document which was one of Angel’s assignments. When we tried printing, a seemingly endless barrage of some other document kept printing. It was always the same group of pages, so I assume that someone before us had decided to choose to print a large number of copies. Luckily, we were able to somehow fix the printer and print off the document.


Prompt #8: Critique


The first group which went today presented the first millennium goal: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. The first thing I have to say is that their document was amazing. It looked almost like the portfolios which we viewed in class. The document was well organized and was broken into three notable sections: what are poverty and hunger?, successful architectural attempts, and failed architectural attempts. The only problem which I noticed was that there was an overwhelming amount of text on the pages and few visual aids. The visuals which were there, however, did add to what was being discussed. A few of their points really stood out to me although I have heard them before. For example, I have not heard the famous quote “history repeats itself? in reference to poverty. It is interesting to actually consider how there has been some sort of caste system with a majority of the people on the bottom and a minority at the top. I don’t know if it will ever actually be possible for poverty and hunger to be completely removed. One reason is because the human population continues to grow and there will eventually be a point, if we haven’t already reached it, where we surpass the carrying capacity. After all, our resources are not unlimited.

They also discussed the correlation between poverty and crime and they stated how there has been a recent trend of rising poverty in the suburbs. It is an interesting phenomenon how the gentrification of a city’s center will stir the upper and middle classes to move back to downtown areas. The suburbs were actually generated as a result of citizens attempting to move out of the city.

I was initially a little confused as to whether the group’s proposed urban living complex was an actual city proposal or just the group’s idea of what would be an ideal construct. It was neat how they took the idea of Rural Studio and applied it to the Twin Cities. I only have a few items of critique in reference to the proposal. First of all, the project seemed to focus more on creating a sustainable building than a solution to local poverty. The edifice would only help a few families and probably wouldn’t help them to exit the realm of poverty permanently. Overall, the group members were obviously knowledgeable of the content and had some quality ideas.


The second group’s project, which was about the insane development which is Dubai, discussed the goal of developing a global partnership for development. Although it may be a bit nitpicky, I thought that they should have stated which goal they were discussing. (I don’t remember them mentioning which goal they delved into, but it is possible that I just missed it.) Their concept was very creative with their entire design influenced by the idea of Dubai as a “package?. Along with the package idea, it is interesting how Dubai is re-exporting its tourism-based economy to other developing nations. Graphically, the document was very useful for conveying the project goal.

One problem was that the group didn’t discus each of their subtopics (economy, education, tourism, structure, and technology) evenly. It made it seem as though some aspects of Dubai were more important than others. The economy was talked about quite a bit with the focus on tourism and Dubai's unique currency. The goal of educating youths in developing countries, but I was somewhat confused by how the development would play a role. Tourism was obviously huge and the group described how labor is being imported, how a sustainable economy is being created around tourism, and how this new culture gets rid of the local culture and instead focuses on “glitz and glamour?. The last bit about immense allure reminded me of our earlier discussion about Times Square. The structure portion was about Dubai as an “industrial city? and how it is considered to “not be prone to human failings?. A vast number of stadiums, rapid construction, and helicopter taxis show how Dubai is attempting to become the city of the future. Finally, in regard to technology, I wonder how the city will stand up to the extreme amount of water and power which will be required to keep its infrastructure flowing smoothly.


I also noticed a picture which we had in our project of a bamboo house and had to chuckle internally, but just a little.

Honestly, after viewing the projects which other groups came up with, I almost feel as though our document is inadequate.

April 22, 2008

Homework n' Hoops Week 8


There was no homework again today, so we searched for pictures of Angel's favorite sports figures and made a calendar page on the cartoon network homesite. After recreation, it got interesting, but not in a good way. Four of the boys decided to play a learing game which consisted of spinning a spinner to determine a path through the states. At each state, they would be read a paragraph and three questions regarding that state and would have to answer the questions. The problem occured, because they could not seem to focus and decided that it would be a good time to fight. The other three tutors and I then needed to try and calm the boys down and get them to pay attention. It was a losing battle. After a while, the game basically broke up and Angel and I decided to play a different board game in which the players needed to determine the alphabetical order of words. Luckily, this was easier to keep under control. I have to admit, however, that in general the kids at the Homework n' Hoops program have been well behaved. It was bound to happen that there would be one difficult day. The pending springtime atmosphere was probably another contribution to the situation. Nothing got severely out of hand so I guess the session wasn't that bad.


April 15, 2008

Homework n' Hoops Week 7

I was invited to attend Angel's leadership award ceremony which will take place on the 29th today. It was unexpected because we were told last semester during orientation that we are not supposed to contact our tutee outside of Homework n’ Hoops. This is probably a different case than the actual relationship outside of the program ordeal, because it will still be a tutor/tutee relationship at the ceremony. It should be neat to attend the event. The other intriguing aspect of today’s session was that none of the children had homework. This is due to the upcoming test, but it was still interesting. Angel, Rasalle, and Elmi put a puzzle together in under five minutes while we were waiting to go retrieve our snacks, and according to Angel, they were free to do “anything? for extra credit, so we went up to the computer lab to investigate the movie Because of Winn-Dixie. They are currently reading the book for class. Today was also one of the crazy, exciting shopping days, and although I gave Angel the advice to maybe save some of his points for next time, he decided to spend it all on a radio. Haha, oh well, kids will be kids.

April 8, 2008

Homework n' Hoops Week 6


Well, I was back today at HnH after a three week hiatus. Angel was very talkative today and it sounds like he had some major ups and downs over the course of his break. During recreation time, we both went up to the computer lab and he opened up to me. His mom was sick for a while and he wasn’t sure what was wrong with her. Worse than that, his dad was fired from D’Amico & Sons and now he isn’t sure if they will be able to keep their house or where they are going to live if they aren’t able to keep it. Angel had wanted to show me footage of the protest his dad had participated in which had been on the news, but we couldn’t find the video. Unfortunately I can’t really do much to help, but I was there for Angel, to listen to him. On a lighter note, he gave me a movie recommendation La Misma Luna and we discussed NASCAR. (Angel’s favorite driver is the one and only Jeff Gordon.) I also learned that this is actually his fourth year in the Homework n’ Hoops program and that he plans to continue the experience next year. Angel also invited me to the festival that he will be working at with his mother this Friday, but unfortunately I have to work at the time. We also learned that Angel had won a leadership award and will be having his picture taken with his parents later this week. Today brought me back down to earth by reminding me that as I wander through college, the world keeps going on, and sometimes it is necessary to be there for those who are facing difficult times. Listening can sometimes be the best way to help.

March 29, 2008

Prompt #7: Millennium Titles

Today's blog is relatively simple. The following are representations of three possible title pages for this semester's millennium project. They all contain approximately the same information, but graphically portray our project from different angles. I will let the samples speak for themselves.

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Of course I have to throw in a poem. Haha. Anyways, I was looking through the poems I have written and this one caught my eye and made me think of our lectures on biomimicry and phenomena.

Haiku Cycle

A view of the falls
Their mist rising from the earth
Down cliff slopes they fly

A view of the mount
Its peak rising from the land
Upward rising mound

A view of the grass
Their blades in jade fields growing
Out of the tan soil

A view of the stars
At night they rise from the ground
The coal sky sparkles

A view of the sea
It rises above the mud
Ebbing over land

A view of the wind
It ascends the grade of air
Soaring calm above

A view of the tree
Standing high above the globe
They take and they give

A view of the stone
It lies obediently
Under the terrain

March 12, 2008

Prompt #6: 1000 Words

We as designers are a very visually oriented bunch. Artistically positioned images and graphically ornate surfaces are typically more important in terms of understanding the project and/or research than pages upon pages of text. However, text is equally important for presenting information, because it can clarify the images and offers another abstraction for viewers to comprehend. It has been said that “a picture is worth 1000 words,? but I beg to differ. Although it is a cute, easy cliché for defining the world of images, the fact is that illustrations are a different medium for the presentation of information than the written word. They are both understood through the utilization of the sense of sight, but they lend different views of the project’s whole. I will first explain each of these channels and their strengths and weaknesses in turn and will end by defining how they can be synergized to create a more coherent whole for the representation of research work such as our millennium goals project.

First off, images are typically a single visual representation of an idea or space and can have any number of spontaneous or set patterns of color and defining boundaries.

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One strong type of imagery uses the illusion of motion although there are many other forms of standalone images. The viewer can actually get somewhat of an idea of the movement of objects/people/places and will not necessarily need the meaning in writing. Here, the observer will receive the feeling of the dancers’ feelings toward each other, their general attitudes, and the direction in which they are dancing.

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The downfall of images is, however, that they may not appear to have any meaning unless the viewer has some outside knowledge of the depiction. I would be willing to bet that the average viewer of this picture would have a severely hard time guessing that this is an image of the earth’s magnetosphere. This would be a case in which the addition of text would increase the viable information being shown.

Secondly, text is a series of symbols which have a meaning only if one has learned how to decipher them. In modern times due to digital influence, the personality of individual characters has been removed (which may be achieved through writing by hand) but their meaning still remains.

Thoughts about the mountains
I flew over mountains and reached the sky,
The sun came closer to me,
My eyes were blinded, forever for good,
only mountains I memorize-
At the top of the world, as the king of the hills,
I admired my kingdom of beauty,
The view was so endless, I still see it sometimes
Restored in my dreams by memories.
The things I still feel are the sounds that I hear,
whenever I go back to the hills.
The smells that I recognize, haven’t altered a bit,
wind so balmy ruffles my hair.
I feel contented and couldn’t wish no more,
if only a bigger imagination to add more colors into my dreams …
~Kirsi Remmel


The poem here is able to describe an individual’s opinion of what the mountains mean to them. A photograph or painting of a mountain would have great difficulty in sending out this message. I would like to note that poetry is definitely not the only useful form of writing and please excuse my bias.

Ayers Rock- a large sandstone rock formation located in the Northern Territory of central Australia.


Although this is a legitimate definition, the downfall of words is similar to the problem with images. If one has no outside knowledge of, say, what Ayers Rock looks like, it is impossible for the bystander to grasp the true significance of the landform. Even if they would read an entire book on the history of Ayers Rock, they would never truly receive the true nature of the rock. (Granted, an image is still not as good as viewing the site in person, but for the sake of arguing the use for presentation we will ignore this factor)

To go off of what the previous example, here would be an example of text and image working in harmony.

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Ayers Rock is a large sandstone rock formation located in the Northern Territory of central Australia.

In this case, the image and text compliment each other, because the onlooker is able to visually get a feel for the concept of the rock and the text explains the background information and global location of the image. The possible examples of text and image working synonymously are endless, but the significance is great for a work such as our millennium project. Too much writing will bore the audience and will actually take away from the goal of the project itself, but if there is not enough script to explain the purpose of the images, the meaning will also fall through.

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This is a great example of how text and image can work together to describe necessary information. It could be used as a part of our project to explain how a cob house will work with its environment to ensure the sustainability of the residence and surrounding site.

I realize that there are other mediums such as video and sound which also have their uses; however, the two mediums which seem to be ever present and speak for themselves even without needed technology are image and text. Finally here is an example about how one can make assumptions through a single image, but miss deeper meaning which wording can define.

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I took the soul out of his eyes
Now he lies in pools of life
Through shrouded trees
We freeze and crawl forward
I shot and killed that once
Lived silence and peace
Crisp antler veined leaves
Thieves have found as shot
Red and brown stain green
The sheen convulses and fades
Early spears of misty light
On a bloodstained frosty knife

Homework n’ Hoops Week 5


Angel didn’t make it today. I’m not quite sure why. At first I was understandably disappointed, but Shannon paired me up with Miko because his tutor wasn’t there. After playing soccer and basketball in the gym, we went back to the main room where Miko’s tutor showed up. Since there were a few other volunteers without their tutees (maybe the flu is going around, I don’t know) Maurie introduced the five of us to an African game called Yan-koloba. The game basically consists of everyone sitting in a circle with a block and chanting “yan-koloba eh eh yan-koloba? while passing the block to a set beat. The interesting thing is that you can throw in words such as “Baltimore? and “Maryland? in order to assist with memorization. The chanting, thinking about words, and rhythmic movement of the blocks all assists in memorization. We tried out several techniques and methods of memorization and critical thinking, such as each having to say a word in a category (for example, “yellow? would be in the category of colors) and all brainstormed to come up with ways to incorporate the game into the Hn’H curriculum. One of the ideas which stood out to me as a probable use would be to have all of the groups do the same beat at the very start of the program which may help the children concentrate on their schoolwork later on in the session. Another possibility would be to allow groups of children to memorize mathematical equations, state capitols, or any other possible school-related topics during study time. Speaking from my experience with the Terrapin Logo program from last semester, I think that if Yan-koloba was offered during recreation time, there would be very few, if any kids who would want to participate. They might be a little interested at first, but after a few minutes, they would probably want to go play in the gym or game room. Conclusively, I think that implementing the game during study time, or right away would provide the best initial results. Although I didn’t get to work with Angel, I was able to have the opportunity to learn about a game which may lead to beneficial results in the Homework n’ Hoops program.


March 4, 2008

Prompt #5: Yo Soy Yo

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We live in a world that has rules. Nature, although seemingly spontaneous and unruly can be very predictable. Scientific advancements and new paradigms of thought have been branching out of the human race like the rings of an oak. The truism about nature as a wilderness of foliage is where I grew up. The clockworks of seasons, from winter, to spring, to summer, to fall and how they affect the environment are what influence the constructed terrain of Minnesota. According to Crowe, Homo sapiens felt a great need to have some amount of control in the midst of this atmosphere of ostensible chaos. This desire is what led the early humans to begin to alter and design the landscape around them. I have been privileged enough to experience this urge firsthand and I have reflexively designed the space around my home.

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To make my case for fighting the opposition of nature, my family has slowly created a path free of branches and fallen logs to more easily scale the hillside and have an easy trail to reach the top and bottom of a ravine. By physically removing fallen branches, and driving an ATV up and down the easiest path, a lane was generated in the woods.

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Another human made phenomenon is this tree stand which was constructed by my dad and me in order to provide a better view across both sides of the valley. We considered it necessary to build the stand in a manner which allowed it to hold together with the future growth of the tree. If platform had been too rigid, it would have quickly been warped and broken by the continuous growth of the two trees which hold it up. An additional force the construct needs to deal with is the opposition of gravity. Without enough stability, the stand would be considered unsafe and would thus be unusable.

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A way of compromising with the natural world is to follow the philosophy of “live and let live.? By planting trees along the northwestern side of the house, it creates a natural wind block for our house. Having gardens surrounding the home also create a peaceful atmosphere and actually take harmful pollutants out of the surrounding air.

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What probably architecturally influenced me the most throughout my youthful life was our place of worship in the town of Sleepy Eye. (We live in the country about ten miles north of the municipality.) The Gothic style Church of St. Mary’s was constructed in just two years (1900-1902) in order to house the rapidly growing parish. The architect Anthony Dohmen from Milwaukee was the one who designed the church under the parish’s building committee. This was an amazing space to grow up in and it greatly influenced my view of the designed environment. When I went on a trip to Europe after my senior year in high school, I noticed that I was subconsciously using our church as a sort of frameworks comparison to the many churches we viewed in Germany, Italy, Austria, and Switzerland.

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St. Mary’s School, which is situated across from St. Mary’s Church seems to reflect and merge with the church in that they both have the same type of bricks in a running bond pattern and are situated so close together.

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Now that I have moved to the cities, I have a completely different built environment to affect me. Namely the urban environment of the Twin Cities with its many edifices by famous architects and generally varied buildings. (By the way, the fact that the pictures are dark has no real symbolic value. I’m not trying to make a negative statement about the cities, I just think that the Weisman and skyline look neat in the nighttime city lights.)

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Finally, I would like to point out that human beings aren’t the only ones who construct structures. Various other species build shelters which battle the oppositions in the natural environment such as this nest which contends with gravity.

Shifted Worlds

A child of nature hidden in vines
Skeleton branching from internal beat
Churning gears advancing the thought
Space is altered a sheltering sheet

The vines once ensnaring freedom
Now liberate the inspired soul
Defying gravity, challenging elements
Reaching, climbing out of the hole

Vines now weaving used as life
Bringing light into the frenzied center
Upward and outward new horizons
A brand new world the child may enter

Sources: Centennial History of St. Mary’s Parish (there is no copywrite or publication information) and my camera.

Homework n' Hoops Week 4


Well today was intriguing. A number of the kids had done a project in school prior to arriving at Hn’H. They built catapults. At first I was a bit worried (with good reason) I have to admit, because several of the kids (Angel included) seemed intent on launching everything in sight from coins to paper to pens. Angel actually decided to skip playing basketball or soccer or whatever they were playing in the gym during recreation time to launch wads of paper at a picture of a castle that I sketched quickly. I guess there was actually some extra credit involved if the students measured and recorded the distance of several fired objects from each of the three changeable fulcrum locations. So, during our study time, Angel and I went down to the hall to let loose some granola bars, markers, paper, and more.
The experience made me think of how Maurie told us during the orientation that the program focuses mainly on English and math although they are trying to incorporate other subjects. Angel made me realize that it is really important to include a variety of different areas of learning because children have different interests. Angel’s excitement of comparing the different distances, rambling on about fulcrums and loads, and trying to figure out why the granola bar made the least distance was a highly enjoyable experience.

February 27, 2008

Prompt #4: I think architecture, therefore I am an architect?

In this class, we have asked the question, what is an architect?

A character in The Matrix Reloaded?

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Howard Roark from The Fountainhead?

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Adam Sandler in Click?

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A relatively unknown band?

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College students in studio?

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A service like Rural Studio?

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Someone who receives a license?

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A wild visionary like Santiago Calatrava?

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A person like Chad Surprenant from I&S Engineers & Architects in Mankato?

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Or is an architect someone who thinks about architecture and its implications?

I’m still unsure as to what the full meaning of architecture is or who an architect is, and over the past few months, I have become even more confused. This is a good thing. Architecture is all I thought it would be and more. I have to admit that prior to becoming involved in architecture last semester I was one of the many who thought an architect was “someone who builds buildings? or “someone who draws blueprints?. I have learned that architecture is something more. In terms of the discipline of architecture, I believe that all of the possible definitions of an architect are possible. There is, however, the understandable fact that most people need to become licensed in order to become fully immersed into the profession of architecture.

In the education system of today (and actually for a long time now) many students feel trapped by the homework and grading system. I sort of happen to be one of them. By receiving homework, in the forms of worksheets, papers, and studying for quizzes/exams, students have set items they need to learn and free exploration into topics of interest is generally constricted by the set curriculum. Another phenomena of today is that of the media, aka movies, the internet, and especially television have caused us to become, to use the cliché, “dumbed down.? It’s much easier to mindlessly watch a TV show than read Discourse on the Method by René Descartes for example. I guess I can see how increased free time due to technological advances has lead to the increased use of monotonous “luxury.? What I have noticed starting way back in Junior High is that my generation has entered the paradigm of thought that it is “uncool? or “lame? to learn. Peer pressure has driven many to pursue “fun? instead of knowledge. It is kind of curious, nevertheless, that in this epoch of luxury and innovation that an increasingly common phrase is, “I’m bored.? Unfortunately, though I was very curious and in awe by learning on my own back in elementary school, though the years, I have become a procrastinator who tends to surf the net or watch television in my free time. It’s sad. I really wish that I would be able to find that interest in learning just for fun that I had back in the day, but my peers tend to fuel my lack of motivation. I am probably also guilty of killing the motivation of others. To come full circle with this digression, I realize that the system of scheduled schooling is necessary to measure and see if students are learning. The only problem is that many times the students don’t want to be forced into studying something they aren’t interested in. This can actually be a good thing though, because we can had the opportunity to learn about something we never even would have thought of. Either way, studying in school or studying in freedom, has pros and cons, and although the system is necessary to keep students studying, it may have the adverse effect of causing some people to refuse to discover.

When I first began pre-architecture, I was interested in the construction/design aspect of the field. Now that I have a better idea of what architecture actually can be, I have become even more attracted to it. I have always had a seemingly unlimited supply of interests from theatre, reading, hiking, ballroom dance, travel, history, philosophy, etc. and the multidisciplinary facet of architecture has made my curiosity grow. At this point in time, I like to think of architecture as a practical art. I especially like Mario Salvadori’s image of an architect in his book Why Buildings Stand Up as someone who knows “nothing about everything.? By this he means that architecture is a multi/interdisciplinary field in which the architect knows a little bit about an intense variety of topics.

Another opportunity offered to me through my current architectural education has been the increased technological awareness through SketchUp, CAD, and Revit.

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A masterpiece, whether physical, educational, or spiritual doesn’t emerge instantly or just out of nothing. It all begins with a simple plan. The Weisman didn’t simple spring out of the riverside. Like my education, and blog entries, the full realization of the contained potential has to start out with a vague idea.

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As another subjective example, a poem doesn’t (normally) emerge in full bloom with the first transcription. Here is an example of one of my poems which still needs a lot of work.

Wise Man

There he gleams with wistful strength
He faces river waters
Moonlight reflects into midnight
And knowledge floats around
His defined inner self
Is concealed by a mystified facade
Art inside him changes with time
And even without his teachings
He is a landmark for his students

The actual question which was presented to us was, “If you were completely released from the constraints of the ‘architecture school’ program, what would you do architecturally, artistically, bodily, lyrically, etc that would still have an impact on your environment. Describe a real or imagined place which might allow you to do this.? I honestly have to say that I am currently in the ideal place at the U of M. Without being “forced? into classes I most likely would never have been presented with so many opportunities. For example, I will be attending the Spring Greening in New Orleans over spring break and I am currently a part of the Community Engagement Scholars Program. In regard to impacting my environment, I would probably have less of a useful/global influence because, although I would still seek out knowledge, I need the ideas and experience of others to help me discover activities which I can physically do to help out our global community.

February 26, 2008

Homework n' Hoops Week 3

Well, I was back today after missing a week due to Presidents Day. First off, we played a wild game of basketball in the gym. Today was the day in which the kids could use the points they’ve earned through doing homework, reading, etc. to “buy? toys and games in the community center’s makeshift store. So, after snack time Angel and I went down with the rest of our group to shop. I was impressed with the setup. The kids would use their earned points to buy items by writing out a check. Angel was pretty good at knowing the check writing routine. In addition, there was a bin with crayons and more that the kids could purchase and donate to children in Guatemala. In the end, Angel decided to buy a yo-yo and a balloon animal making kit (he told me he is pretty good at making balloon animals) for himself, and a truck for his cousin. As his story went, he and his cousin had been looking for the truck, not quite sure when, but it was sold out and his cousin had started crying, so he decided to buy the one he found at Homework n’ Hoops to give to his cousin. I was impressed. We got to work on factors homework next and after he had finished the assignment, Angel and I went up to work in the computer lab. He did get a little impatient when the computer was running a little slow, so I told him the computer was just thinking. His response was, “I wish computers didn’t have brains.? Haha.

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When all was said and done, to use the cliché, I’d say it was an excellent session.

February 19, 2008

Prompt #3: Sustainability

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Ouch. That's pretty heavy. From a paradise to industrial civilization to a desert wasteland. It is just one of the many possible effects global warming will have on the earth.

Fumi Masuda -
“We should not sustain society as it is, but change society for sustainability.?
Masuda’s quote reflects my values as I believe we need to change pretty much all aspects of our current society in order to ensure a survivable future.

Bob Willard -
“Saving the world is not on the list of business opportunities?
“The biggest threat to national security is climate change?
I found Willard’s contradictory statements intriguing because it may have short-term costs for businesses to change for sustainability, yet the costs to businesses in the long run will be far greater if change is not generated.

Dee Hock -
“The problem is never how to get new ideas into your mind, but to get the old ones out.?
How very true. Habits both good and bad are severely difficult to break especially if they have become engrained in a culture. Individuals and groups of people can easily come up with new ideas relative to implementing them.

Alvin Toffler -
“You’ve got to think about “big things? when you’re doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction.?
All of the “little things? from turning off lights in a room you’re not using to eating less meat add up to help the cause. Individuals are the ones who create change, not institutions.

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Albert Einstein -
“The world we have is the product of our way of thinking.?
Ah yes, the one and only Einstein. He actually has several quotes which encapsulate the sustainable movement. I found this thought fascinating because it goes back to the idea that design designs us and therefore we need to design a world which is able to keep, shall I say, turning.

Philippe Starck -
“The veneration of progress for its own sake has resulted in a world where things take precedence over people.?
I am always mystified by how American society views “progress? and definitely “success? in terms of money and “things.? Personally, I prefer different cultural views such as the Guatemalan (which I have visited a couple times) view of success as simply caring for family.

Edwin Datchefski -
“We should redesign everything?
This is a wildly radical statement. I like it. If you really stop to think about it, everything could be redesigned an infinite number of times and still never be perfect.

Well, when I looked for music in my iTunes collection, I had an interesting time searching for music which connects to sustainability. Some of these songs seriously stretch it, but that's half the fun. I chose Proud Earth because of the Native Americans' link to nature and their great care for sustainability. Solla Sollew, A New Life, and Go the Distance all sort of tell about the potential for a better society, and the greatest potential utopia of today is a world of sustainability. Ignition, Redneck Yacht Club, and His Cheeseburger all tell tales of our consumerist society here in America. Every Rose has its Thorns and Jocob's Dream tell of how the wilderness can be a cruel place and thus some people don't care about saving it. The song from Somewhere that's Green, from the musical Little Shop of Horrors realy amazes me, because the singer talks about a suburban green area (as in gardens and a lawn). Most people think of nature and "green" areas as a forest or something similar. I find it intriguing that the suburbs can be thought of as green. In fact, people moved to the suburbs to get out of downtown areas and have more space on the outskirts of the city. Something else to ponder. Also, I just couldn't resist including a song refering to New Orleans (in that it's a prime place to practice sustainable design in the rebuilding process).

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Silent Summer

Years advance and spring waters dry
Seasons change and time goes by
Overgrowth of oceans destroys new life
Altering climate causes fresh strife
Clouded fields of wasted intentions
Slowly destroy a world of many dimensions
Green turns to brown turns to black and red
Everything once living now is dead
Biodiversity shrinks and fades
Existence all around slowly degrades
To our deadly habits we all became slaves
Slowly we all have dug our own graves
We know what to do we know how to change
Old paradigm values we need to exchange
We have but two choices we are stuck in a cage
Soon will arrive the dawn of a new age

The "unfortunate truth" of environmental problems is a very serious crisis; however, there is always room for a little bit of humor.

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February 12, 2008

Homework n' Hoops Week 2

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So today at Homework n’ Hoops, I started to think about how designed spaces are political and convey messages to those who enter them. When one enters the main room in the Loring Nicollet-Bethlehem Community Center, you can easily see that the space used to be a church. When I looked into the history of the community center, I found that it had in fact been the Bethlehem Presbyterian Church which began to offer social services to children and families in 1958. Slowly, the church’s activities, which were operating cooperatively with another church site, evolved into the community center it is today. The community centers merged in 1972 and were sponsored by churches, the county, the city, and even the state of Minnesota.

The atmosphere of the Homework n’ Hoops program is one of both fun and learning. Having had past experience with tutoring children, I was initially surprised at how well behaved the children are. I think a possibility for this behavior might be the church atmosphere. Although the space is currently set up like one would expect a children’s learning environment to be, traces of the church are glaringly obvious. The gothic arched windows, the arch of the ceiling, and the general layout of the center is clearly that of the preexisting church. Although it might not be the actual cause of the children’s behavior, the presence of the church’s frame adds to the feel of the location. It’s interesting to think about.

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February 11, 2008

Prompt #2: Social-Design ~Goodwill Outlet~

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I have been volunteering at the Goodwill Outlet at 2505 University Ave W, St Paul, MN this semester and I have noted a few problems with their system. I have nothing against goodwill and believe that they are a very honorable and strong organization. Their mission statement is as follows, “The mission of Goodwill/Easter Seals is to assist people with barriers to education, employment and independence in achieving their goals. We prepare people for work.? The vocation of Goodwill serves society as a whole by helping to integrate people into the society and to help them become financially stable. On Goodwill’s home page, they provide a list of their accomplishments:
• “12,899 employment services that help people get jobs
• 4,841 community assistance services, such as resource referrals to partners, financial assistance and winter warmth services while working with us to find jobs.
• 8,765 persons were able to borrow assistive living medical equipment
• 706 rural rehabilitative technology services
• 429 Skills Training services were provided to prepare for jobs in fields with potential for higher wages and benefits
• 1,471 educational services, such as English, general educational development (GED) preparation and computer skills services to provide employability skills for jobs?
Their record provides a praiseworthy description of how they have assisted communities in the Twin Cities area throughout all realms of the socioeconomic world. Goodwill in Minnesota was founded in 1919 (like a certain brand of root beer) as a way to help those who have a more difficult time amalgamating with society whether it be due to a disability, employment, educational, or other obstacle. People of all races can come together and unite to reach their goals. (I don’t actually believe in the concept of “race? and I believe it is something humans made up to explain differences in people. We’re all distinct individuals, but although I don’t believe in race, I realize that the concept exists within the minds of the majority of the people and society, and as such race becomes and actual idea. So, anyways, that was my digression of the day.) Slowly, the original site expanded to the current 15 Goodwill stores, Goodwill Outlet, and Second Début Fashions and Art Boutique.

As one can see, I mean no offense to the Goodwill/Easter Seals organization, but from work inside the Goodwill Outlet building, I noted a few aspects which I think could, and should be redesigned. The Outlet store seems like a fine enough concept, selling generally unwanted goods by the pound, but the methods used for this mass selling of goods don’t feel right to me. What actually happens is that goods (clothing, shoes without a matching pairs, suitcases, and random trinkets) are tossed into broken bins and flung down a conveyor line towards the waiting consumers. After all of the bins are out, an employee gives the word and the shoppers go wild tearing through the merchandise like it’s their last meal. I don’t want to commit the crime of stereotyping, but most of the customers seem to be on the lower end of the financial spectrum. Next comes the problem of the goods themselves. Although some of the clothing and other supplies are passable, shoes without a match are hard to put to use and most of the items appear to be very unsanitary.

I would like to address the problem of the tray line first. With the warehouse building and the mad scramble for goods gave me the impression of cows lined up for the slaughterhouse. Maybe that’s too graphic, but pleasant wouldn’t really be an apropos description of the interior struggle. One way to fix this might simply be a redesigned interior. As design is political, and the interior seemed to reflect the trauma of poverty, a lighter, less factory-like ambiance might be a key factor. Additionally, somehow changing from a conveyor distribution method to more of a traditional “store-like? method such as shelves might also ease the atmosphere. I know it might not be in the budget, but in my opinion it would be a good idea to give the clothing a quick wash and to at least tie the laces of shoe pair together. Although it is an outlet store, and it consists of quickly selling a heap of supplies, improving sanitary conditions and organization is always a superior scheme. All I’m trying to say is that concepts and theories are great and all, but in reality, things may not be as pleasant as they are thought to be from an outside perspective. One needs to actually experience the idea in motion to discover what works and what needs work. Goodwill has a great thing going, and has been and will be of great assistance to society. But nothing is perfect.

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Unfortunately, although I asked if it would be tolerable, pictures aren’t allowed inside of the actual Goodwill Outlet building, and I can accept that. People want their privacy and they have every right to it.

Well, here’s my poem of the week. Sorry if it’s a bit exaggerated. I just realized that I seem to apologize plenty. Sorry about that, haha. Anyways…


Lined up gathering momentum
Thrashing concrete and plywood
Perversion of sweaty socked atrium
A message of madness waiting in store
Humbled and grumbling greedy eyes
Survival of fittest in snarling crowd
Loitering caged in crumbled walls
False smiled faces send shafts of grey
Rotting mold and dirt sticking floor
Holds me down to the bitter cold
Shrieking rattles of endless futile material
Thrash fighting for the soiled fabric