Monthly Archives: October 2018

Necessary Rules and the Necessity of Good Design

This is something I wrote as a response on Facebook a few weeks ago when someone posted an article about the sameness of Seattle’s multifamily housing project designs.

Oh boy does this need discourse. I am not sure that I agree with the reason that these building look uniform and I am also not sure that a certain degree of uniformity is bad (unless it is mindless, lazy, and without design sensitivity). In my opinion, a design review board is a good thing in general, provided that they are comprised of intelligent people with insight. There is great freedom within restrictions and lots of spontaneity within control. I would even argue that freedom and spontaneity without restrictions and control generally winds up in chaotic, ugly stupidity. And, I would definitely NOT advocate for Seattle to lose it’s “modulation” on facades, for instance. (Think of the “refrigerator box buildings” of the 70s in many American cities.) It is not the rules per se, but how the designs themselves are executed in the big moments and in the fine details and choices. And it is a lack of design education, I believe. Too many people (designers, owners, developers…) defer to what HAS been instead of innovating for what could be. Again, I like rules – it just depends upon whether they are smart rules, intelligently interpreted, or not. You can see the results of a lack of design rules in places like Aurora Blvd and Route 22 in NJ, or Admiral Wilson Blvd in Phili, or… well, the list goes on an on; there is probably an example of this in every town in the USA and maybe over the world. Alternatively, you can point to the plague of too many rules in places like the historic nazi Germany, I suppose, or, arguably some contemporary suburban housing projects in the USA. But, some of the blandness of materials and facades is the result of the development of the industrial revolution and how it evolved into the 20th and 21st Century, hand in hand with economic pressures, all pushing handicraft away and relying upon machined materials and construction and how these have been administered in design decisions. But, mostly, it is a lack of design intelligence. Seattle sameness points to a lack of understanding about design and a lack of imagination on everyone’s part. Seattle design is like a learned helplessness. Designers and architects should take a greater role in decisions about places, and, in my opinion, ALL people should be educated about design since it affects all of us 24/7. (I do see how this might lead to more arguments, but bring it on! Let’s argue about design for a change!) Architects should not be afraid of working with developers, nor should architects underestimate the perceptions of developers, and visa versa. There is an animosity that has led the two — those people with the money to build, and those people trained to design the buildings — to undervalue each other. Many of the building design problems in Seattle, from my point of view, include the fact that the developers and the economy demand maximizing the space and building to the edge of the code, volume-wise; too many people have absolutely NO design training or appreciation; and even those who have design training defer to a dulled down context instead of being innovative. Whether you are going to be an architect or not, all of us should learn about design.

Ranting Online / The Click and Squeak of Democracy

Here are four days-worth of my recent Facebook posts. I know that sometimes this is just simply assuaging my guilt and making me (falsely) feel as though I am doing something. But I am trying to learn how best to articulate my thoughts and ideas, as well as trying to figure out how best to be effective.

Not all people recognize the danger to Democracy that this administration poses, and I wish that they did see it. “On Tyranny” by Timothy Snyder puts this into recent historical perspective.


What SEEMS to be is more essential than what is. This is true in fashion and in politics.


Stock tip – invest in high end jails? (It would be funny for the Trump family fortune that began in hotels in Dawson, BC to end in exclusive jails. Both a sort of “hospitality” venture!)


These hearings are very important for women’s rights and the way that men and women treat each other. VERY important. However, perhaps I can say something that I have yet to hear anyone say. It is this. The courts are not without bias. A Supreme Court justice will lean conservative or liberal. Of course, a SC justice should, ideally, be super human. But, that is not possible. Even getting close to approaching a case without personal bias would take extreme amounts of intelligence, discipline, and integrity. And no one does that perfectly. In fact, I would argue that it is impossible to judge without bias, even if that is what we need in a Supreme Court justice. Given this, I do believe that Kavanaugh will, if given a chance, shield and pardon the POTUS against current allegations about Russian intervention in American Democracy. He has said that he would do that. He also sounds strikingly uninformed or ill-informed about contraceptives and abortion. I do not think that he will leave his biases outside the courthouse door. And I think that he is dangerous in that way, even if a good man in other ways. His courtroom decisions about women and immigrants and others might truly kill people, despite his taking umbrage against that allegation. Now, still, we do need to choose a justice. And that person will be either biased as a conservative, a liberal, or another. And, given that this is an appointment FOR LIFE, it is imperative that we vet the nominee as much as possible. That is the meaning and importance of these hearings. The Republicans want him appointed before the midterms. The Democrats do not. The Republicans denied Merrick Garland his rightful place. The Democrats would like to deny Brett Kavanaugh a place on the court. My biases, based upon fairness, compassion, kindness, and what I understand to be justice, is that Kavanaugh simply should not become our next Supreme Court justice. His biases are wrongheaded.


Now, if you want to really see change, VOTE in November.


The entire nomination should not hinge (should not have hinged) on the sexual allegation. He is WRONG in many many ways. He should NOT be A Supreme Court justice. He is hyper-partisan and carrying a grudge.


Flake is an idiot if he thinks that the allegation of sexual misconduct was the ONLY issue in question about this unworthy, partisan lawyer.


Extremely partisan, angry (vindictive?), a loose cannon, and then one of the most powerful people in the world? That makes for a potentially great novel and a scary nonfictional proposition.

Will the investigation of Russia interference into American Democracy now crumble? This guy said he will not prosecute a president. The misogynistic, bigoted, graceless, racist, greedy, short-sighted, science-denying loser-in-chief has appointed ill-informed, extremely selfish, and party-before-people everywhere. But this is a BIG one.


I am frightened for this country. It feels like watching your house fall apart in a hurricane, and realizing that the builder ignored your drawings and specifications, and used papier mâché in place of concrete.


When I was in elementary school, I was so proud to learn how to spell “incomprehensible”. “I N C O M P R E H E N S I B L E ! “. I would happily spell out the letters, full-well knowing how small my voice was. Little did I know how entirely prescient and relevant that would become.


Calling all eighteen year olds (and 19, and up)! Do you care about women’s rights, civil rights, all people’s rights, gun regulations, resisting tyranny …do you care about the planet?????!?! There has never been such an important time to VOTE. And you carry incredible power in YOUR vote. PLEASE NOTE IN NOVEMBER.

And this is not even the big story. Yikes. Distract and conquer.


Should we not have the expectation that a Supreme Court Justice, appointed FOR LIFE would be calm, balanced, wise, thoughtful, considerate…? At a minimum. Not to mention, that the justice should not start out with a vendetta against a major political party.


Roe v Wade is at stake. Should this guy be appointed, women will lose the right to determine what to do with their own bodies. This will be decided quickly and heartlessly by someone who doesn’t fully understand abortion versus contraceptives. At the very least, many many women will have to travel many miles to another state to get a safe abortion. Abortion is not contraception, but it is essential to save lives. And it is an individual woman’s right to choose. Period.


Next up, pardoning criminals and strengthening their loyal ties to a corrupt man, as well as supporting the people who enabled a foreign enemy to invade and to undermine our Democratic elections. Next up, further erosion of the division between church and state. Next up, the lose of Medicare/ of Social Security? Next up, many serious and important partisan and vindictive judgements against half of the citizens in the United States. Next up, a complete imbalance in the tripartite foundation of our centuries-old experiment called Democracy.


It is not only that he has probably committed sexual abuse. It is not only that he lied. Though, his lack of impulse control should be enough.


“a permanent Republican majority”? – A despot with cronies who swear fidelity, like the good old oppressive feudal days around the world? The country’s founders wanted a balance of power. Our Constitution was designed with a tripartite system in order to have checks and balances. Not to have one party rule all three branches of government. And think about what this would mean. You have seen “The Handmaid’s Tale”…?


Kavaugh hearings with the Senate:

He did not answer direct questions. One major one was about an FBI investigation. Add that to his (was it an-) interview with Kamala Harris about a week ago when he dodged answering a direct question about his relationship to lawyers in a law firm. She tried over and over to get him to reply directly. He is a prevaricator. He is a obfuscator. He is a liar. He is almost purely political. Although you like to point out that even “good guys” can and do slant truths to make their point, you should listen to his testimony and the way he talks. He is outrageous. NO ONE trying to be a judge in the US Supreme Court should be able to get away with his bullshit. It is so infuriating.


You can listen yourself. The country is divided. Yes, Democrats are imperfect too. But, the fact is that this man is unfit for the position and that the Republicans are doing everything in their power to get his lying self into position for their dangerous gains and that HE DOES NOT ANSWER DIRECT QUESTIONS. Graham came to his rescue at the hearings. He ranted until the line of questioning was dropped. They are becoming masters in the “look over here!” methods of groping for personal and political gain.


So much is at stake, women’s rights, civil rights, immigrant’s lives, the state of the environment and even the likelihood that our species is in danger.


Attempts to catch both parties in mistakes is a false equivalence. Often, when a Democrat criticizes Democrats it sounds like a schoolmarm, correcting grammar when someone is running out of a building shouting “ME MUM IS IN DIS HEA PLACE! SAVE HER PLEASE!” I do understand that many (if not all) things are open to interpretation. That is my career and I have been working at it for at least 29 years. But to be skeptical to the point of paralysis is not going to be effective. Sometimes you can share something that comes from a clearly biased source. Sometimes, despite the bias, it is still true. Certainly, not all “news” is equal, and this is true whether liberal or conservative. Occasionally, we need to stop and wait and think and reconsider our own point of view. But, sometimes, I think that we might go too far.


This potential Supreme Court nomination is exceedingly frightening and exceedingly serious, and the outcome might change EVERYTHING we know and trust about Democracy. In this hearing, Dr. Ford answered EVERYTHING that was asked of her. In this hearing, Judge Kavanaugh hemmed and deflected and had other senators come to his defense. He was also a full-out deflecting machine in an earlier discourse with Senator Kamal Harris. In both cases, he did not answer direct questions, he took umbrage, and he was so transparent that everyone/anyone could see it. He is not an honest person. I really think that it is imperative that we acknowledge this about a person who others are trying to place in a LIFETIME appointment to the Supreme Court where he will have a serious and severe effect on all of our lives. On the lives of our children, and their children…


Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus is a Latin phrase meaning “false in one thing, false in everything.” At common law, it is the legal principle that a witness who testifies falsely about one matter is not credible to testify about any matter.


I have listened to Dr. Ford’s ENTIRE testimony (the full taped recording – hours and hours of it) and to Judge Kavanaugh’s entire testimony (live at the time he gave it and a second time, taped). He prevaricates and dodges while she is honest and forthright. I did not count the times they each did not answer questions, but I heard her answer everything and I heard him deflect numerous times. He is not fit to be a Supreme Court justice. And his silence/refusal to be forthcoming (and rage) are part of the proof of why he is not.

Should we not have the expectation that a Supreme Court Justice, appointed FOR LIFE would be calm, balanced, wise, thoughtful, considerate…? At a minimum. Not to mention, that the justice should not start out with a vendetta against a major political party.

It was 1981 or so, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, thirty seven years ago. I was a grad student at MIT. (I had spent my formative years in the 1960s, I feel I must add.) I went to a party/gathering at the apartment of some acquaintances. I do not remember if I smoked (I occasionally smoked grass) or drank (I barely, if ever drank), but I decided to leave and walk to the apartment of a guy I was seeing (ok, sleeping with), maybe ten blocks away. As I was heading out, I might have hesitated, slightly afraid to go out so late alone at night. Then, a demure, pale, tall, thin, male, MIT colleague with metal-framed glasses and mousy-colored hair (an acquaintance whom I barely knew) offered to walk me there. I thought that was a gentlemanly gesture. It was probably after midnight, maybe even closer to 2 AM. The acquaintance and I got to Central Square which was relatively busy even at that time of night, where he asked if I wanted to come home with him. I didn’t. At all. I barely knew him, I did not find him attractive, and I was headed to my then boyfriend/lover’s house. The acquaintance then, abruptly and somewhat awkwardly said “Okay. See you!” and he left me there in the middle of Central Square. I remember being surprised. From there, I walked on a relatively quiet, dark residential street to the boyfriend’s house which happened to be across from a taxi stand which was open all night. I did not like walking alone in the dark on a quiet street, but once I got to the door, I felt safer because of the taxi stand where there were people outside 24/7. I thought I was safe. As I was ringing the doorbell, a guy walked past. I saw his shadow when he stopped just past the opening where I was standing. He jumped out at me and grabbed me by the neck. After a long struggle (which I vividly remember and have described before — mostly to make clear how poorly the police acted), someone came out from the building and the attacker ran off.

The point is that I remember a lot, but not everything. I remember what I was wearing, I can sketch the doorway, I remember the material and color of the sidelites of the door (yellow plastic circles), etc. But I do not remember everything. I can even admit that I would now have to look up the boyfriend’s name, though I am embarrassed to say so. (One point worth noting is that I immediately and for a while after, felt guilty and questioned if I was WRONG to reject that nerdy acquaintance’s advances because, after all, I was sleeping with someone who meant so little to me; proven by the fact that I have not since remembered his name!) The attack was physically damaging; because of his hold around my larynx, I could barely talk the next day. I could tell you about how the police didn’t care, and I can be specific about that. But, I do not remember everything about that event, despite it being very traumatic to me.

And the point I am really trying to make is that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is possibly the most credible person I have ever heard speak. She is so smart and real. I definitely believe her.

(Not that it matters. Whether guilty of the attack or not, whether you care about the attack or not, for MANY other reasons, Kavanaugh is unfit to have a lifetime appointment as a United States Supreme Court Justice.)

Unfortunately, it does seem that way. Oddly, for years, I contested that the POLICE were worse than the perpetrator. Sure, I was hurt by the guy. But I was betrayed by the police.


And then there was Europe: young man in a small town in France, old man in Florence, middle aged man in Venice…


Here is another aspect. I have NOT considered myself to be part of the #metoo movement, or at least not to have been a victim. NEVER have thought of myself as a victim. The only time I have truly felt victimized is about being denied WORK or INCOME or RECOGNITION or REWARD because I am female. I did not consider these incidents of sexual assault to have identified me as a victim. I am glad to revisit this. I still do not think that I am a “victim” per se, but I do see now that people may have tried to make me one.

The real value of marketing.
Recently, I have been thinking that the most impact possible on upcoming national elections might be if people in Appalachia, and in other poor, rural places can actually be reached. For so long, the entrenched mental image of the Coal Miner as All American (like the cowboy) has been deep in our culture and I bet that people who work in the fossil fuel industries feel scared for their livelihoods and disrespected for their hard work and dedication. The Dems have ignored poor rural people to their peril. But, somehow, not long ago, the Marlboro Man lost his cigarette without losing his appeal or “losing face” as it were. So, I am wondering if the coal miner can lose the buckets and headlamps — and perhaps replace these with overalls and boots as hard-working, sexy organic farmers, or begin hauling and reworking materials for reuse, or building solar farms, or wind farms, or navigating boats for ocean cleanups, or working on the construction and installation of smart water systems or toilets that generate energy, or…? — without losing face. I am musing about this and wondering how to make an impact on THE INTERPRETATION of fossil fuels to help the people who work in the industries realize that shifting to cleaner (renewable) technologies will mean MORE and better jobs and a better outcome for all. I think that it hinges on presenting a good image and getting the word out.

Perhaps there can be a series of ads of sexy guys and gals working the land on eco-friendly farms, recycling, even, dare I say, making art or writing? And somehow connect THAT to a vision of the strength of early America to reach and connect with people who now feel disregarded?

I think that we need what used to be called “Madison Avenue” for these upcoming elections.