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Wonder Wednesday

June 20, 2018

Desert Breath by Danae Stratou, Alexandra Stratou, and Stella Constantinides.

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Philosophy Tuesday

June 19, 2018

“Travel is a good thing.  You learn things when you travel, when you meet people out of your comfort zone from other cultures, you cannot help but learn and feel a certain [kinship], you see what you have in common with people around the world… that feels good.  And it can’t be anything but good for the world the more we meet each other and move around.”

— Anthony Bourdain

Travelling (whether literally or just figuratively) outside of our comfort zones is rarely, well, comfortable.

Sometimes it can be thoroughly unpleasant.

Sometimes, though, it is also downright necessary.

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Architecture Monday

June 18, 2018

Constraints can be fun, for they remove the paralysis of the blank slate, and call forth creativity and invention.  This project certainly had both in spades; for one, it’s a renovation (and perhaps adaptive reuse?) of a lovely and quirky stone building in an Italian hillside town, and for two, it’s absolutely tiny.  And it’s an apartment.

 

Here’s what the existing conditions brought:  a lofty space made of richly textured walls that constrict the further in you go thanks to walls not aligning.  It also brought a floor level that was several steps below the equally small entry yard.  Into that context, the renovation begins with an elevated deck and fire pit in the entry space, coupled with extended brick and rusted steel walls to create a private courtyard.

Inside, though, is a tonne of very cool additions and installations.  Most noticeably is the barrel vault that creates the second floor.  Much more than a flat ceiling would be, it maintains a sense of height (in what is not exactly a very high room) while also splitting the ground floor into different zones without walls or encroaching on the limited floor space.  Adding to this feel are the bits of built-in furniture and cabinets, especially the sofa/mantlepiece/fireplace that extends to accentuate the angular shape of the room.

Up the spiral staircase, a thickened closet becomes a restroom and shower, while on the opposite, angled, wall, the headboard grows in thickness to follow the closet and create depth between itself and the angled wall.  Nicest of all is the freestanding sink and mirror, a statuesque object next to the window (itself with a sweet thick steel plate sill) overlooking the mountains beyond.

My only quibble would be with the exposed wiring, not for its exposedness, but for its seeming lack of care.  In a space where there is a lot of play between the beautiful existing stone and the slickly crafted additions, the wiring occupies an awkward middle ground.

A very nicely done project, fully using the great character of the oddly shaped existing space and adding just what’s needed to make a beautiful abode.

Effegi House by Archiplan

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Gaming Thursdays: Star Trek Adventures Cheat Sheet

June 14, 2018

As noted a few months ago, our group’s been playing the Star Trek Adventures RPG by Modiphius.  We’ve been having a blast (it has allowed me to recreate/resurrect a character I love that I was playing some 20 years ago in the Star Trek RPG by Last Unicorn Games) and the system’s proving to be a pretty good one.  As is my wont, I’ve made these quick cheat sheets to help us along:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1k9AR8oRJ_qiSPoxW7QEVWZU50jQiIYOr

One thing to note, I didn’t include all the actions and options for starship combat, as I found this great set of sheets by Potato_Fishy that contained everything very well.  Otherwise, I tried to include pretty much everything that comes up often in play.

Hopefully this can be of use for your games as well.  If you see any errors or omissions, please let me know and I will update the sheet.  And if you’re not playing ST:A, I do recommend it!

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Wonder Wednesday

June 13, 2018

Majestic, magic, moving, magnificent…

… and a mane.

Photo by Tim Bryan

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Philosophy Tuesday

June 12, 2018

I once forgot to pay rent.  Several days after it was due, I got a letter in the mail noting I was late, that there was a penalty, and that from there on forward I was to pay only by mail order or cashier’s cheque.

I became furious.  This was the first time I’d forgotten to pay the rent!  The requirements they were imposing seemed draconian!  It was unfair!

Mostly, truth be told, I was furious at myself.  How could I possibly forget such a thing?  I’m a smart person!  I remember all sorts of things!  Knowledge is my identity!

I was still angry when I met up later with a friend to do some work.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to get anything done (or do anything right) in that state, so I told them the whole tale.

And they laughed.  And it wasn’t one of those “I’m laughing with you” kind of laughs… they were definitively laughing at me.

That didn’t appease my anger one bit.  “What is so funny?”

“Are you human?” came their reply.

That was… and odd question.  “Yeah…”

“And do humans sometimes forget things?”

I knew, immediately, I was busted.

Or, more precisely, my calculating self, so full of fury and self-importance, knew it was busted.

“Yes.”

“Great.  Are you ready to give up your anger now?”

I fixed them with a stare.  My calculating self was not going to go down so easily.  “No.”

“Ok.  Let me know when you are.”  And they turned back down to their work.

It took me a few minutes more to stop taking myself so damn seriously.   The central self returned.

“Alright, fine.”

And with that the rest of the day went swimmingly.  As did my conversation with the office staff at the apartment, which resulted in them willingly waving all those ‘unfair’ conditions on my future payments.

It’s so funny* how wrapped up we can become in our identity, such that even the most human and common of things becomes a lighting rod and catalyst for upset, anger, blame throwing, casting aspersions, and more.  How vigorously we can work to defend something that doesn’t even need defending, how our clinging to a view (or views) brings down so much provocation.

And just how crappy that all feels.  How much it ruins our day (or longer).  How much time it can occupy.  And how much of a hindrance it is towards doing and completing that which we do want to do, and that would bring us joy.

The super funny thing is that it all felt so darn right to me.  Until that moment where, with their piercing question, my friend interrupted the calculating train there was nothing other than all the fury and unfairness.  Of course I should think that way.  Of course it was that way.

Developing mindfulness to catch those crazy trains is a wonderful thing, as is having a conductor like my friend who can split the cars and put the brakes on those same trains.  The deal isn’t to avoid or resist the calculating self and its train; the deal is to choose whether to get on or not, and even then (or if we discover our automatic decision was to get on…) we can still always choose when to get off.

Because wouldn’t you know it?  Things tend to be a lot more peaceful, a lot more clear, a lot more productive, and a lot more enjoyable when not caught careening on a runaway trip to Smashville.

 

* And I mean this with full honesty, no hidden sarcasm here:  I am truly fascinated by and find it hilarious how we humans sometimes operate, and how hijacked we can become.  If anything else in this story, I learned how endearing it can be to live inside of that world of “do humans sometimes…?”  It means a lot more love and relatedness towards others, myself, and the crazy communities we create and live in.

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Architecture Monday

June 11, 2018

This, I would say, is really an architecture of place.  A terra cotta workshop in Vietnam, placed on a vibrant riverbank, it is a spot of community, of tradition, of gathering, and of art.

The need is for a spot to place traditional terra cotta pottery to dry and cure.  Created with terra-cotta like brick, this three-story tower is perforated with hundreds of gaps to let the air, light, and views through.  Inside, a repetitive wood framed system provides plenty of cubby holes for storing terra cotta works.

As a bonus, the ground floor doubles as a tea house, with a central table and recessed seating area that allows for a moment of rest and conversation, gazing upward towards the clouds as they pass by.  I also really like how the stairways and pathways are integral within the wood shelving system.  Walking becomes an experience, with pottery above and below, the sky above, and vistas through the brick out to the river and landscape.  A lovely play of light, material, and movement.

This is a sweet design, grabbing what’s local and available (and hence inexpensive) and creating a wonderful space to play in for the whole community.

Terra Cotta Studio by Tropical Space