Wonder Wednesday

August 15, 2018

Step one:  Head to this website:  http://koalastothemax.com/

Step two:  Begin mousing over

Step three:  Keep mousing over!

Step four:  Boggle and be amazed

Step five:  Smile uncontrollably


Philosophy Tuesday

August 14, 2018

Three umpires were at the bar one night, discussing the art of umpiring.

The newly minted umpire spoke first.  “It’s pretty clear.  There’s a box, and if the ball is in the box it’s a strike; if the ball is out of the box it’s a ball.  I call it like it is.”

“Ah yes,” replied the second, one who’d had a few seasons tucked under his mask.  “It does seem like that so often.  But then who knows, pitches can do crazy things and a bit of wind in your eye can mess you up even more.  I’ve realized that the best I can ever do is to call it like I see it.”

After taking a pull on his drink, the revered veteran umpire smiled.  “Friends.  Balls an’ calls come an’ go.  Like it is, like I see it, truth is… they ain’t nothin’ ‘till I call ‘em.

— with inspiration from Bill Klem


(and nothin’ that ever happened to or around us aint’ ever anythin’ to us until ya/we call ‘em…)


Architecture Monday

August 13, 2018

Ok, this one is part 2001 Monolith, part sculpture, and part security agency super secret scary dark cube. 

In actuality, it is a data centre in Coviha Portugal, one that embraces its blank box nature to create something striking.  It’s got two main bits:  that slate-like solid that houses all the servers as efficiently as possible and a more sinewy support building that surrounds the box to house offices, IT rooms, and various support functions.  Compared to the featureless nature of the box, the support building is ensconced in glass and covered with a cooling pond that doubles in duty as a reflecting garden.  A garden of actual trees and solar panels surrounds the site.

It’s always great to see a project (and a company!) that takes what is often ignored and relegated to blank banality and instead elevates them, recognizing that function doesn’t need to compromise spirit, and that all that we build has an impact on our quality of our towns and lives.


Wonder Wednesday

August 8, 2018

Chip and Dale — in dinosaur costumes!


10000% adorbs.  Gotta see this in person sometime!


Philosophy Tuesday

August 7, 2018

Some time ago I heard a story about AI research.  The researchers had set up a neural net and busily spent their days entering “facts” into the computer.  Each night, the computer would chew on these “facts” and spit out what it figured out, essentially spitting out its interpretation of how, and what, the world was.

One morning, it declared, “All people are famous.”

To the researchers, this was a puzzle — until they realized that they’d begun entering information about people into the system and that, thus far, they’d only chosen and entered “notable” individuals.

To the computer/AI, it made clear, perfect, logical sense.  It only knew of famous people.  Thus, everyone must be famous.

While I don’t think it was their intention, the researchers built a pretty good example of how our own brains work.

Though sometimes we are admonished to “read between the lines,” our brains are always doing just that.  They take all the vast amounts of information that comes in, parses it, organizes it, and looks for patterns… and then goes even further beyond to look for logical truths.  “If such is such, and such is also such, then it follows that…”

To once again quote the great Carl Sagan: “The brain does much more than just recollect, it inter-compares, it synthesizes, analyzes, it generates abstractions.”

Abstractions, deductions, and truth/realities that totally fit with whatever knowledge and experience it has at that point in time.

This is all great, except that we don’t know our brains have done that.  And that from thereon out, our brains will filter our new experiences and observations through that truth it already knows, even hiding things from our consciousness.  And even more so that we will take many actions based on all those, quite potentially flawed, deductions.  Sometimes it will work out.  Sometimes our actions will be downright unproductive.

Thanks to that triple whammy, it can be tough for our patterns and predictions to get updated with new knowledge and experiences that, should at least, be coming in all the time.  If we’re lucky, a different logical deduction will emerge and compete with an old one such that they balance each other out.  Or we may get a half-update, where the brain still partially holds onto the vestige view, ready to jump back to it at the earliest “confirmation.”

In moments of our most desperate want, deductions can collide to create twisted logics of epic proportions, with epic(ally poor, often) results.

But by stepping back and choosing to go into a series of inquiries to do some heavy re-examination, we give our brains a chance to go back to the primordial and recalculate.  By taking ownership of our views and deductions and realities we gain agency to revise them.  We can come up to date with our stories so that they are in line with where we are today and where we want to go, crafting them so that they serve us well.

Then we can show those AIs how its really supposed to be done…


Architecture Monday

August 6, 2018

When I lived in Ottawa, I attended events at the National Art Centre many a time.  Concerts, plays, symphonies, lectures, the NAC (and yep, we pronounced it ‘Nack’) had a constant plethora of things going on.  The building itself, though, was… well, the fact I don’t remember all that much about it speaks volumes.  Built with a hexagonal motif, it definitively had a certain charm, using the hexagonal angles to its fullest both in its layout and in nice sculptural details throughout.  But like many buildings of its era, it looked inward, predicting a time where the automobile was our prime interaction with the ‘outdoors’.

Completed earlier this year, the NAC has been connected to the city, announcing itself (and its entrance – it was always a bit of an adventure to know how best to get into the thing) to its environs while creating vistas from within back towards the city’s ceremonial core.

Rather ingeniously, the new addition leverages (from what I can tell) the single-story plinth that wrapped the building from which the taller bits (housing the various performance spaces) sprang forth.  By building in front and on top of them you get generous double height spaces with and automatic mezzanines atop that original plinth.  Not only does this help to create grand entrance, circulation, and intermission mingling areas, a whole new set of performance spaces can be sectioned off, allowing for even more and varied events.  All the while framing those grand scenes and turning the city into a stage.

In the technological marvel department, the glass in the new entry lantern is embedded with thousands of LEDS to create a remarkable, transparent, video screens.  Little art animations mix with Canadiana mix with announcements for upcoming events.  For a building that was once very sedate and receded into the background, that’s a lot of new pizzazz.

I like it.  A well-done renovation that uses as much of the existing bones as possible and builds upon was there before it.  It doesn’t try to erase the old NAC, or even hide it.  Instead, it celebrates and continues the geometries and motif of the classic building to create an even greater whole.  Good stuff.

The NAC renovation by Diamond + Schmitt Architects.




Wonder Wednesday

August 1, 2018

A voice of piercing clarity.  Backed by piano and strings.  Filmed deep within a decommissioned nuclear reactor.  A haunting beauty of layers and texture and acoustic magic.

(The electronic track is great too, in a different vein.)