“Star Trek was about social justice from day one — the stories were about the human pursuit for a better world, a better way of being, the next step up the ladder of sentience. The stories weren’t about who we were going to fight, but who we were going to make friends with. It wasn’t about defining an enemy — it was about creating a new partnership. That’s why when Next Gen came along, we had a Klingon on the bridge.

Lehman blew it. He missed the point. He uses science fiction — and Star Trek — as a justification for playing a game of “us” v. “them.”

Here’s a clue. When you divide humanity into us and them, you automatically become one of them.

[That’s what Star Trek was about.]  Honest. I was there.”

David Gerrold (Emphasis Mine)

Philosophy Tuesday


I first came across the term, and perhaps the notion, many moons ago during my first trip to China in 2002. We were in the Wudang mountains, touring the famous Daoist temples there (and learning martial arts), and our tour guide translated the goings on in that peculiar way: “The nobles of old used to come to the mountains to stay for a few years and practice self-cultivation, before returning home to their lives.”

There’s something I really like about the concept and the verbiage of “self-cultivation”.

It implies that self-cultivation is something that you can do; it is not something ingrained or inherent in you. This also means it is not something that you either have or don’t have, it is something you develop and can develop.

And it is something that you can keep on developing…

Like a garden, you plant seeds, and suddenly they appear, and grow.

Like a garden, you cultivate things, and they bloom.

Like a garden, the more you tend to it, the more attention you put into it, the more rewards you reap.

Like a garden, it is an important thing to do, to nourish yourself.

Like a garden, you cultivate it ongoingly, and it is something you can continue to cultivate, and grow, for as long as you live.

Inside those two little words was a stunning amount of possibility and freedom.

Even as arrogant as I was I could not truly fool myself (none of us really can). There were aspects of my character that I recognized could benefit from some self-cultivation. And no matter the “level” I stood at, it was always a matter of cultivating. There were other things available and achievable.

I like to use the term “self-cultivation” to this day to describe the philosophical and meditative arts. It is where I come from and approach things from.  The possibility and freedom still rings as clear to me as the singing gongs of the temples.

Architecture Monday

What if you could take the soil beneath your building and use it making your building? What if you could take that soil and turn it into a thing of beauty to surround you every day?

The gorgeous walls above are made of rammed earth. It’s not a new technique for building – it’s been used worldwide for thousands of years – but it’s one that’s much lesser known in our “modern” circles. And it can be a thing of beauty. There’s a grand tradition of exposing your building structure, the very bones of the building, and with rammed earth this can be very grand indeed. Whether monochromatic or, as above, beautifully striated like a canyon cut, there’s a richness available through its use, and the possibility of play with its weightiness and solidity.

Texture, colour, and mass: all components on the palette of making spaces sing.

Philosophy Tuesday

This post is about my personal experience and journey. It’s about a transformation I had a decade ago and the impact that has had in the subsequent years. It is why I mark this February as special for me in the world of philosophy and transformation, as it marks ten years since I effectively stopped having bad days. This cessation did not arrive by magic; it came from intent, from learning/training, from coaching, and from me doing work towards it.  And ultimately came from friends who were willing to stand in the face of my resistance, arguments, righteousness, and stonewalling.  Their contribution is what let me get it.

Once I got it, though…

For one, life didn’t stop life-ing all over me, and things I wouldn’t want still came my way: romantic breakups, car accidents, mistakes, unexpected large expenses, cancelled projects, a house water break and repair that had me have to live in a hotel for six months, work clashes, intense deadlines, thyroid implosion, high strung clients, broken items, all the things that are part of my life were still there and still came on strong and fast.  Harsh, strong, and fast.

I define a “bad day” as a day that ends, or that I spent a significant portion of the day, upset, frustrated, or disempowered. I probably have a pretty high tolerance for what constitutes a bad day, given how I was being that decade ago (I know the depths to which I can take the idea of a bad day!)… and no matter.

For me the best part of all this is the experience of the every/ordinary day, not having the icky sensations and that feeling comes when I am mired in a bad day/etc. I need not fight back against my circumstances, and they do not drive me as much as they used to. Every day doesn’t end with angels singing, nor do I expect it to. But at the end of the day, I am OK, clear, and complete.  I have peace of mind.

And because I am not low, when something interesting/unusual/exciting/fun/etc happens, it is that much sweeter.

It took three months of coaching and training to lay the foundation, including weekend workshops and those friends willing to be a stand for me and willing to reflect me and coach me.   And I was slower than most at grokking it. And it is eminently grokkable. Living crammed in a hotel room for six months while dealing with a large house repair (atop my other commitments) could have been horrible for me, and likely would have been a decade ago. My thyroid thing can really play havoc on my moods.  That I can now stand in the face of those and enjoy things and keep a high quality of my everyday life, facing things with peace of mind, is something I am so thrilled about.

If you ever wonder why I’m so (overly) excited about philosophy, ontology, transformation, and possibility, this is a big, big reason why.

Thank you for reading and indulging my celebration and trip down memory lane.  And thank you to everyone who has stood for me all these years.  It is upon your shoulders that my transformation was possible.

Architecture Monday

Robin Baker Studio

I really know well the building above, for I helped design and build it during the summer of 1995.

The project was a studio for a local artist (along with a second building, a honey collection hut, seen in the background above), done as part of one of my university class/studios. The clients were quite kind, giving us pretty free reign to come up with a design to fit their programmatic needs. And here, in humble form, is where we got to demonstrate a lot of design goodness that makes for something more than one might expect.


  • We used a lot of found and donated objects and materials; a series of boat trusses became the “belly wall” – a curved prominence that today holds artwork and supplies.


  • These boat trusses also became supports for future lighting along the hearth, itself intended to be a thermal mass with a wood stove.
  • To provide lateral support the front wall of the studio was a double wall, with the inner wall angling inward from the outer wall to become the “wedge wall” – this thickness was carved away at one end to form a seating area/bench, and small windows below gradually showed the thickening wall as well as providing an interesting play of coloured light.


  • The donated windows were arranged to catch light, both direct (for the service areas of the structure as well as to warm the trombe hearth) and indirect/clerestory (for the studio portion itself).
  • A piece of old boat wood was carved to make a special and rich bottom step for the staircase leading to the mezzanine.
  • Reclaimed barn wood that had a beautiful patina was discovered to be solid white oak, which formed structural columns within.


  • A honkin big sliding door, donated, was festooned with a junked “comb” from farming equipment making for a rather dangerous looking door (but really quite harmless!)

Little measures that made a big impact, elevating the space into something excellent to be in. I haven’t been back there in years, though I know it’s still holding up – it’s on Google:

summer studio street view 2014

I trust the artist is still tooling away in the studio, making great art.

Philosophy Tuesday

The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago.
The second best time to plant a tree is today.

– Chinese proverb


(I quite like this version of the usual “seize life for today” or “today is the first day of the rest of your life” type aphorisms, for to me it removes any guilt, or even shame, undertones.  Quite the opposite (and I’m just now realizing as I type this): beyond not feeling any guilt, it is inviting us to not stay trapped in the past; inviting us to forgo being regretful for what was or wasn’t; inviting us to not dwell on shoulds or shouldn’ts.  Just simply, there are things that are best started as soon as possible – and if that didn’t happen, not to worry, they are still best started now – and if still that doesn’t work out, no problem,they are still best started now – and if you didn’t realize it until now, no problem, they are still best started now.    Plan your work and work your plan, make your progress, begin now, and if it stumbles… begin anew.)

Architecture Monday

click for project info & more photos


I am a huge fan of adaptive reuse… I loooooooves me my adaptive reuse. I go so far as to call adaptive reuse one of my architectural “fetishes.” There’s so much to love in adaptive reuse. Primarily, the use of something existing as a canvas for something else to be reborn is just inherently rich for me, carrying forward a history and patina. And like in cuisine, there’s the opportunity to pair, compliment, or contrast differing elements to make the experience even richer.

At the same time, it can be immensely sustainable, using the embodied energy of an existing structure as the basis for your new use, saving not only the energy of demolition and trash, but the energy in manufacturing, transport, and more of new material.

And given buildings are part of the “written record” of our human history and experience… well, you get this amazing combination of these three powerful things upon which to create.

I’ve been doing speculative adaptive reuse projects since my early university days, and so it was with the usual squee of delight that I greeted learning about the Wychwood Barns in a magazine. An old conglomeration of streetcar maintenance buildings in Toronto, now converted into a wonderful mixed-use community of live/work lofts (two more things I adore: lofts, and live/work spaces!), artist studios, performance/exhibition spaces, artisan vendors, and a greenhouse and garden. Local food production, adaptive reuse, cisterns, and mixed use, egads what is there not to love? The spaces within are, as you’d expect from an old industrial shed, tall, clearspan, and enhanced with celestory/roof monitor daylighting. The exposed brick walls lend their aged texture and weight to give strong definition to the long horizontal space, a counterpoint to the glazing at either end and overhead. The adjacent park is brought in through a deconstructed shed turned into outdoor event space.

The re-construction lasted less than a year, and a structure on its way to decay was brought back to enhance the community around it.  Good design, strong action, fabulous result.

Kickin’ Heavy Redux!

Did you miss out on the Heavy Gear War for Terra Nova kickstarter, and are now kicking yourself for it?  Did you wish for more buy-in, and are now kicking yourself for it?  Did you not even know about it, just found out about it, and are kicking yourself for not hearing about it sooner?  Stop kicking yourself!  You can still kick-support the project and get yourself a wonderful box of minis, more minis, still more minis, rules, and more!



This’ll be a great set, the new rules are shaping up, and with enough support, we’ll unlock the Ammon! The Grizzly’s nearly unlocked too, and so that’ll be two more big minis in that box of full minis!  (And I will immediately purchase at least one additional Ammon…)

Don’t know much about Heavy Gear?  No problem!  The world is a rich one and has a long publication history.  Head on over and grab issues of Aurora, a free ezine, and read some fabulous fiction, and then check out dp9.com to learn even more.

Philosophy Tuesday

bigger hammer 01_f

bigger hammer 03_f
“I gotta get a bigger hammer!”


There’s a funny tendency in us humans that I like to call “I gotta get a bigger hammer!”

I use it to describe those areas in our life where when we have a certain view that says “in this area, we need to do X,” or that “X is right,” and when we do or try X and we don’t get the result we want, we don’t say “huh, I wonder if X is inaccurate or not the solution”, or even “I wonder if X is not the best way to do it”, we instead go right to “clearly, I/we need more X!”

“I just didn’t X enough!”

And so we work hard to increase our capacity to X, do to X better, or apply more X. And it may have some impact, or not… and it’s usually worse if does have any impact, as then clearly if we keep on Xing larger and larger, eventually we’ll have enough X to have it turn out as we want!

This can go on for years.

In our own lives, it might be certain ways of interacting with people, certain ways we do our work, certain ways we manage our lives… in a more broad sense, it shows up in economic policy, political systems, sociological constructs, and more.

As is often the case with things like this, the bigger hammer mantra is so easy to see in others, and yet so hidden from our own view when it comes to us, obscured within that perfect logic of our internal world. It makes sense to us!

It’s good to re-examine our “this is RIGHT!” and “this is the RIGHT WAY!” strong suits every now and again, to see if it really is right, or if we’re just trying to get that bigger hammer.

When all we really need is just a screwdriver.

(It’s like when you try for a few minutes to push a door open, and someone walks right up and pulls on it, and walks in… D!oh)