Archive for December, 2016


Architecture Monday

December 19, 2016

I love train travel. I love adaptive reuse. A project that combines them both? Double love!

The need and desire: to make many unmanned and otherwise unremarkable train stops in the Netherlands both safer and more pleasant spots from which to catch a train. Without, as is common, breaking the bank. The design put forward: use that other ubiquitous transportation device, the leftover shipping container, to create something visually striking and with tightly integrated amenities.

The result: Combine the shipping containers like a series of toy blocks into a straightforward and recognizable form that is striking even from a distance. The containers at the ground level are mostly deconstructed down to structure to house the amenities. Painted white, they contrast strongly with the other, solid, containers painted black. Finished by white lettering, they all go together to make the whole station look sleek and proper.

A waiting room and flower & coffee shop sit nicely within glassed-in areas at opposite ends of the station. The use of frameless glass makes them look almost the same as the centre box, which is left open for the ticket vending machine. Besides being a marker of place – and a clock tower – the tall container is also perhaps one of the most striking bathroom experiences ever. Inside, the room extends up some 40’ to a skylight!

Great little project that takes some otherwise leftover bits and, with some strong design, turns them into a totally legit train station where you can sit protected, grab a coffee, and hopefully not daydream on that toilet, getting so lost in the clouds overhead that you miss your train.

Barneveld Noord by NL Architects


Wonder Wednesday

December 14, 2016

Simplicity    …    Stillness    …    Beauty    …     Life


Philosophy Tuesday

December 13, 2016

This is a philosophical statement.  It is intended to spark thinking and examining.

There’s a Chinese idiom I learned through my Kung Fu practice that translates to “Eating Bitter.”  Or, more fully, the willingness to eat that bitter.

In order to train and learn and gain skill and ability and accomplishments in the martial arts, you have to be willing to go through all manner of unpleasant periods.

Not every part of training will be fun.

Not every part of training will feel great.

Not every part of training will lead to immediate growth.

No, there is a lot of training that can/will be downright frustrating, boring, repetitive, difficult, painful*, challenging, embarrassing, weird, confusing, upsetting, and grueling.  Physically and mentally and even bits that will directly confront your identity and disrupt your view of yourself and lift up the mask of awesomeness that we all like to hide behind to expose who we are and what we’re capable of.

It doesn’t have to suck – that’s up to us whether we want to turn it into suck – but we aren’t going to be smiling and laughing all the time.  (And if we are, we ought to consider we’re not pushing ourselves enough…)  No, in those moments, they can seem downright ugly.

Yet, after all the training and after we’ve gotten through those sour times, those moments will recede in the background.

Instead, we are left with a sense of excitement and accomplishment, and only experience the newfound energy and freedom that comes from our training.

Most oddly, those blah moments may even become some of our fondest memories.

Kung fu is, of course, not all that different from other areas of our lives.

There are many things we can, want to, or are forced to take on.  Things as equally complex and deep and integral as Kung Fu, things that are physical, or mental, or spiritual, or interpersonal.

Most certainly, when we practice any field of self-cultivation, we are practicing Kung Fu.**

There will be times that are unpleasant, there will be things that confront us in ways we don’t want to be confronted, there will be times (many, MANY times, in my experience) where we will not look good and will be shocked by ourselves, there will be times where we seem to wallow in question and muddlement and sadness and uncertainty and will beg for the insights to come so it will be over.

We don’t have to suffer through that – that’s up to us whether we want to turn it into suffering – but we aren’t going to be smiling and laughing all the time.

And that’s normal.  To be expected.  And totally worth it.

For what’s on the other side is just like all that training in Kung Fu.

Once we’ve gone deep into it and worked through the muck, we emerge with unbridled joy and peacefulness and connection and relatedness and generosity and ease and grace and peace of mind.  There is freedom to be, no matter what the circumstances.

Self cultivation, of course, is also not divorced from the living of our everyday lives.  There’s a parallel here as well.

Live has a tendency to life all over us.  Things go awry.  Plans go sour.  Surprises happen.  Obstacles emerge.  Challenges drop from the sky.

Not everything or every day will be a picnic on the beach.

But if we develop, practice, our ability to eat bitter, and eat our way through all those life situations while bringing to bear all our self cultivation skills, we can ride the unpleasantness and emerge on the other side quickly, with our spirit strong and our experience of life still mighty fine.

And mighty fine is a pretty darn good life to have.


* As a martial artist we learn to distinguish between soreness and general ache versus sharp pain.  A good workout will leave you sore, learning something knew might make your shoulder ache, and that’s OK.  But a sharp localized pain equals something bad.  And overdoing it on things that render you sore will lead definitively lead to that sharp pain of injury.***

** Quite literally.  Kung Fu translates roughly to  “skill acquired through effort and time.”  So it doesn’t actually mean martial art or anything similar, and thus you can have kung fu in all sorts of places, such as good kung fu in cooking, in calligraphy, in speaking, and absolutely you can have good kung fu in the art of living peacefully, freely, generously…

***  Similarly, there’s a difference between eating bitter, and situations in life that are unhealthy, destructive, abusive, wounding, etc.



Architecture Monday

December 12, 2016

Oh, I like this.  A gaggle of cabins (14 in all), intended as micro-dormitories for the Colorado Outward Bound School.  There’s some serious nice stuff going on here.  I like how they tread lightly on the soil.  I like their choice of materials.  And I especially like how, while all following the same basic intent and pattern of construction (a frame, a porch, a dethatched shed roof, an insulated box, and housing for the students) they display wonderful range of diversity and design that surpasses the repetitive blandness that typifies most subdivisions in North America.

From the outside, the steel structure, with its cable X bracing, fits well with the forest surroundings.  But it’s the hot-rolled steel cladding that covers the insulated living quarters that wins hard in my book.  The random imprints that are inherent from the manufacturing process of the panels are not only very tree and leaf-like in its pattern, but the contrast between the sharp edges of the box with this random pattern is very striking.  This is only further rendered beautiful by the jewel-like windows, with some being very precise cuts into the face, and others pushing out as a steel-lined extrusion.  Glowing with the reflection of the wood paneling within the cabin, they become very lantern-like, beacons in the high mountains.

Inside, as mentioned before, the 14 cabins are divided in 14 different ways.  Folding furniture features prominently, letting the cabins be spacious and compact at the same time.   This intricate dance of walls-that-are-also-beds/storage/desks/etc is what allows for the variety of unique interiors, making it fun and pleasant to be in while adding functionality.

And oh those windows… simply marvelous.  Through an equally diverse placement, they provide fantastic connections to the picturesque surroundings, sometimes a full-on portal gazing outward, sometimes just a glimpse like a precious painting.  Couple that with entire wall sections that open to let the inside bleed seamlessly out into the landscape.

I mean, who wouldn’t want a desk like this?

Completely wonderful project.  A great use of rugged yet well selected materials, exquisite and careful detailing, and intentful design to create living spaces that excite and feel great to be in.

Colorado Outward Bound Micro Cabins by Colorado Building Workshop


P4A 2016 – Earthjustice

December 9, 2016

Here is my video for this year’s Project for Awesome, asking for votes towards Earthjustice:

P4A is a completely community-run 2-day event, where you can vote for various non-profit organizations and donate to the P4A fund.  At the end, the non-profits with the highest votes get a split of the money donated.  Please consider voting for Earthjustice at this link (voting ends 11:59am EST on December 11th):

Please share this video far and wide, and please consider donating to P4A and/or to Earthjustice directly!

With the results of the elections in the United States, I feel Earthjustice’s work will become more and more critical.  I personally am upping my monthly donation so that they are as supported as possible to do their good work in keeping the fundamental operating system of our planet running.  It’s not glamorous, but they’re saviors and heroes.


Wonder Thursday/Sunday

December 8, 2016

Here’s our delightful photo from Sunday’s Disney Studio Light up the Season!


(And yes indeed, Tigger put away his bounce long enough to merrily ride on my shoulder for the entire evening…)


Wonder Wednesday

December 7, 2016


The ethereal beauty of Neri Oxman’s 3d printed glass sculptures…

Amazing intricate overlapping fingers of light and shadow,

filaments of radiance that dancing around and through each other,

captivating intricacy that draws one deeper and deeper in,

rendered alive by eddies of air.

(I apologize profusely for the vertical video… though it makes sense for the framing in this case :P)