Architecture Monday

Maybe it’s something about spending so much time indoors that has me looking at libraries so much of late… whatever the reason, here’s another lovely one and one that I can check out the next time I can head back home to visit!

Wood.  Definitively lots of wood going on here.  Big, muscular, impressive wood, using engineered mass timber construction from responsibly managed lands (I am unsure if this is FSC certified, but I hope so).  Arranged like a series of curving splayed fingers, each topped with a green roof, it opens towards the public square with a giant portico.  It’s got great visual complexity, changing appearance from every angle, its various bits always in a dance with each other.

That beefy post and beam structure allows all below to be enclosed entirely with glass.  Inside the veritable forest of leaning trunks and all that light makes for a vibrant experience, almost cathedral-like.  It also allows for maximum flexibility; as its role evolves over time, the library can shuffle itself around to suit the needs of the community.

A very cool, engaging, and fun design.  Top shelf work.

The Scarborough Civic Centre Library by LGA.

Philosophy Tuesday

So much of our lives seem to revolve around zero-sum games.  Certainly, many of the actual games we play reinforce that idea, that there is a single (even if it’s a team) winner and everyone else falls short.  Or as we get caught up in the false-gravity game of money and the economy of scarcity.  Or when we were young and told to share our toys or treats with a friend or brother or classmate – that was super clear, wasn’t it?  If I gave you half my cookie, then I had less for me (and certainly no more cookie was coming).

To be sure, there are zero-sum instances and games around, both the real and the ones we play (often inadvertently) as though they were real.  But it is well worth remembering that not everything is one, and it is even more fruitful to live as though zero-sum games are the exception.

Love, happiness, generosity, wellbeing, joy, passion, satisfaction, vitality, health, performance, productivity, laughter, kindness, fulfillment, peace… there are so many areas in life where the things are not finite, are not created and destroyed in equal measures.  They are abundant, never-ending, available to be pulled from, always gushing forth to allow us to drink from the proverbial firehose.

True, we may need to get over our own barriers to do so, and those barriers may be mighty indeed, but through this world of abundance and generosity we gain oodles of support and care, buoying us as we work our way to overcome or, even better, dismantle the barriers.

In this realm we get to play whole different kind of games, ones that have us build and grow and feel big and great and happy.  And while the Buddha never really said the following, it’s a fine place to remind us of this non-zero-sum place in which to stand and live from:

Architecture Monday

The Spruce Goose.  The largest flying boat ever designed, built, and flown.  Well, flown for all of about a mile at an altitude of 70ish feet before being retired, probably more famous for its Howard Hughes origin than its impact in aviation.  But the thing had to be built somewhere, and its large hanger was equally impressive in its size.  With the plane gone, though, what to make of all that space?  For a time it was used as an epic soundstage (both Titanic and Avatar were filmed there) but it has recently been converted into offices.

From the outside, it looks pretty much like a hangar, albeit with some added and angular windows to break apart the corners.  Architecture is about the inside though (space is where it happens!), and that’s where things get interesting here.  A wonderful example of adaptive reuse, the project inserts a whole separate ‘building’ within the functioning and restored hangar structure. And while these new bits inside are decent enough, it’s their interplay with the beauty and grandeur of the exquisite nature of the bent-wood structure that really makes the project cool.  Balconies, sinuous walkways, intricate boardwalks, overlooks, and plenty of glass all create a 3D kaleidoscope that offers views throughout the various levels and functions while also highlighting the hangar itself.

And I just love this piece of hanging art, re-creating the outline of the Spruce Goose!

Of course, there’s some absurdness at play here for such a large set of offices that is now for sure not going to be occupied until at least mid-next year.  But if office time ever becomes a thing again, this would be a mighty fine place to work.

The “Google Spruce Goose” by ZGF.

Architecture Monday

Something experimental and different for us to explore tonight.  Called The Arches, it is a “kit of parts” that can be deployed to create usable/inhabitable space under the archways of elevated rail lines, roadways, water ways, and the like.

It’s a nifty idea.  Using interlocking (sustainably sourced and CNC-cut) wood boxes, the whole thing is self-supporting, easily erected, and can be dismantled to be re-used elsewhere.  Overhead beams clip onto the arched box end pieces to provide support for insulation as well as lights and other utilities, while pallets form the base for a floor.  Lastly, polycarbonate panels complete the deal lining the outside faces, providing light while maintaining privacy.  Oh, and bonus feature:  the boxes that form the structure double as cubbyholes for storage or display.   Taken all together, it takes advantage of the shelter provided by the existing infrastructure to create a quick way to enclose new usable space for minimal cost and effort.

Though I’m not quite sure where that fox came from…

The Arches Project by Boano Prišmontas

Voices in Unison: “I Don’t Matter” Edition

All throughout this crazy year, I have been inviting people to vote.  There are stark reminders every day of the difference between bad or absent or incompetent or self-serving “leadership”, and what’s possible under competent leaders.  And so today I’d like to extend a special invitation to those who say “My vote doesn’t matter” with these responses…

My vote doesn’t matter; TLDR version:  In short, this question:  if your vote doesn’t matter, then why are they doing all they can to violate your right to vote, both in ability and in its impact?  Whether it be by closing polling places, or implementing unnecessary and onerous voting ID and registration issues, or making information difficult to discover, or participating in extreme gerrymandering, or linking voting rights to the paying of fines and fees, or attacking mail in voting, or creating a false panic about fraud, or simply to engage in behavior that is designed to put you off voting, there is so a lot being done to decrease voter turnout.  And they cement it in place by fostering that very feeling you have, that feeling that your vote doesn’t matter.  They want you to think it doesn’t matter, that it’s too hard, that you’re better off staying home and just not vote.  Because they know that the less people vote, the easier it is for them to influence the outcome.  The more people they can get to tune out, and the more roadblocks they can throw in the way, the greater the impact of their fervent base upon which they can count on to show up while at the same time making it easy for their base to vote.  Which, in turn, makes it easy to gain the power.  By doing all this they get to break the system and choose their electorate, not, as it should be, the other way around.  To that, I say no.  Please vote. Continue reading

Gaming Thursday: Pet Classes

Here’s a quick, off the cuff, totally not fleshed out or playtested idea on how to handle a pet class (ie someone with an animal companion or similar) in D&D that may resolve the current disappointment/issues with the current iterations of the Beastmaster Ranger (and similar) classes.

To begin though, I get the difficulty in crafting this kind of class.  There’s a few of major things to balance:  first you don’t want to add too much complexity (having a player have to manage two full-fledged characters), and second you don’t want to add too much power (where the character + their companion’s abilities overshadow everyone else at the table).  And while the revised Ranger and it’s Beastmaster subclass from Unearthed Arcana seems to have found a mostly workable solution for that, there is a third area of balance that remains the Achilles heel:  hit points.  To avoid allowing the companion to become a vast sponge of extra hit points for the party, the companion’s AC and Hit Points remain modest… which means they are all too often going down like a chump.  Sure, the Ranger can resurrect them, but few want to play a class where their best bud is dying every other day.

So here’s the concept:  Have the companion fully share the combat economy with the main character, not only in actions and attacks, but in Hit Points as well.  How this is fluffed will depend on the specific pet class – a ranger or druid could have a real spiritual connection/ bond to their companion, a warlock might have a more parasitical and/or arcane tie, etc – but the basic idea is that you can balance the class almost as a single actor within a combat encounter.  So when the main character takes a move action one or both can move, and when the main character takes the attack action, each attack they get as part of that attack action can be performed either by the main character or their companion.  And when one gets hit, both are closer to being knocked down.

At its simplest, as well as in some ways the most extreme, everything about the two could be set to be exactly the same:  to hit, damage, AC, etc.  It’s one character, just being two places at once on the board.  (To be fair, though, if both are caught in an area attack, they only take the damage once).  It’s also workable to have some minor differences between the two in AC and attack power.

The nice thing about this is it makes it easy to turn nearly any character into a pet-using class, since there’s little change in their effective contribution to the party’s abilities and power.  Of course, even if using the option of complete identicalness, there are some extra benefits that come from having two bodies in play, but they mostly fall into the same category of advantages that come from having a familiar (albeit one with much greater hit points, though outside of combat that should matter much less).  The biggest impact may come from having an extra ally for the purposes of controlling territory or granting the Rogue sneak attacks.  It’s fair then to have the character need to swap out a minor class feature, or make a custom Feat that allows them to gain the companion (with, I’d say, a few extra riders or a single +1 ASI, since the power gain wouldn’t otherwise be a full feat’s worth).

The last tweak that may make this sing is to allow – or require – the character or companion (whichever one takes the damage when this occurs, or a choice if they take area damage simultaneously) to drop unconscious when they reach 25% of their Hit Points.

So that’s the idea.  Iffn’ and when I get a chance to test this out, I’ll report back.  And if you try it, please comment below with how it went and any suggestions you have!