31 March 2008

What a month

When the dust has cleared, March 2008 might go down as one of the most amazing Marchs of my life. A big part of this, and the reason why I haven't posted in a week, is because I just returned from Hawaii for the first time ever. One of my oldest and best friends got married there and I was in the wedding, and it was a wonderful experience. Between the parties this month, St. Patrick's Day, the pillow fight, and in the last week, the beach, the sights, and the wedding, I am exhausted, and will spend the last hours of March sleeping like a baby. Before I do, however, here are some of my favorite photos from Honolulu and its environs. Happy March! (and Happy Baseball Season!)

Waikiki, and Honolulu in the distance, seen from the peak at Diamond Head

Hawaii Convention Center, which has a really cool structural system

A Buddhist Temple in the Valley of the Temples

Aloha Stadium, home of the Pro Bowl and this crazy alien ship looking thing

My last sunset in Hawaii, for now!

24 March 2008

Spring has arrived in Los Angeles...

...which is my explanation for the urban mayhem that took place in LA this past weekend. Here, a roundup:

1) (Im)mobile Clubbing: An event that was originally slated for the Hollywood and Highland Metro Station, Mobile Clubbing literally went from underground to exhibitionist when it changed venues to the plaza in front of Graumann's Chinese Theater on Friday, March 21. I sat this one out, but you have to appreciate the entertainment value of a bunch of people bouncing around - virtually silent to onlookers, mind you - to the beat of their own iPod.

2) Filming in Downtown LA: People who have cars complain about this phenomenon a lot, but as a pedestrian I get a big kick out of it, especially when they have to walk me through film shoots that block the sidewalks. There was a LOT of filming this past weekend, including a helicopter shoot which actually made me think an escaped convict was on my roof on Friday night, and whatever they were filming on 4th Street, which I am VERY sorry I missed.....

3)....which leads me to this item, the 4th Street Slip 'N Slide: OMG. How could I have missed this!?! They had a giant inflatable gorilla, for god's sakes.

4) The reason I missed the Slip N' Slide was because I was too focused on getting to the Pillow Fight in Pershing Square. International Pillow Fight Day was actually celebrated in 30 cities simultaneously, with the one in Manhattan's Union Square taking the size prize. Here's the "official" global Web site, more photos can be seen here, and this link has a great video from the LA fight. Below is one of the short videos I took of the event, about 5 minutes before the cops drove onto the square and got on the loud speakers to say "great job, thanks for coming, it's time to leave now". It was definitely fun while it lasted!

21 March 2008

Ecotripping: Sea Ranch and the NoCal Coast

My friend Laura, formerly known as "the one who rode in a Penske Truck with me for 5 days to move all of my worldly possessions to LA", came out to visit over Spring Break. I guess since we've established that we can coexist in a vehicle for hours on end together, we didn't shy away from the idea of going north for a few days to visit some of her family and to see a place called Sea Ranch, which many of us know of as an "environmentally sensitive housing development" from our architectural history classes. I'm interested in studying Sea Ranch for precedent research for my thesis, which you will hear about extensively at a later date.

The good news about this trip is that Laura and I chose a vehicle with MUCH better gas milage this time around.....we rented a Prius for the week, which are now being offered as rental options through Hertz (and probably other companies as well). So we got in our hybrid and we ventured through who knows how many of California's 16 climate zones to visit the exclusive coastal community 2 1/2 hours north of San Francisco.

Upon seeing Sea Ranch first hand, I can definitely understand how the original developers and inhabitants felt they were treading less on the environment by living there. The landscape is mostly in its original state, maintained by a flock of sheep, and all planting around the homes is indigenous to the area. However, beyond a conspicuous lack of exterior ornament and painting, the houses themselves are not exactly pushing the envelope in terms of sustainable design. They are lovely and simple modern dwellings, and some of them have sod roofs, but you don't see very many solar arrays, for instance. With the availability of technologies that are making sustainable design easier for homeowners, why wouldn't Sea Ranch take advantage of that?

But enough of my schlock. Let's see some pictures!

Our trusty Prius sits and waits on the corner of California and Van Ness streets in San Francisco while we obtain some much-needed coffee

Fun house seen on Highway 1 (aka Dramamine Drive) on our way to the Sea Ranch.

Sea Ranch Lodge with the Sea Ranch logo, built by Charles Moore in the 1960's.

This one was my favorite, partly because of the green roof and partly because it looks like a design I did a loooong time ago.

This is a very typical-looking (perhaps an original?) Sea Ranch house.

The Sea Ranch Chapel, built by James T. Hubbell in 1985.

A detail shot of a stained glass window in the Sea Ranch Chapel.

18 March 2008

CA Boom Design Show

My friend Laura is the latest in a series of wonderful house guests to accompany me on another California-related, blog-worthy adventure. This past weekend we attended the CA Boom V 2008 Design Show at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, which had modern, sustainable and pre-fab design on its agenda. In the pre-fab housing area, dwellings by LivingHomes.net, Rocio Romero, and Alchemy Architects (Wee House) were featured, and the rest of the showroom floor had some delightful items. Below are some of my favorites.

The Z6 House by Ray Kappe is the featured house on LivingHomes.net, and although the house wasn't officially part of the show, we stopped by the first LEED Platinum House in the United States on our way to the Hangar to take some photos. This pre-fab house was erected in 8 hours on-site in April 2007. Not bad for a day's work. (Incidentally, this is also the house I am studying for my energy modeling class. More on that later.)

This company (the name of which escapes me) developed a lightweight concrete-substitute for outdoor plantings and landscaping. Here they show it off with their "grass man".

Raise your hand if you need a life size horse statue lamp from Moooi Boutique. Anyone? Anyone?

Now THIS is a lamp. The "feathery" pieces are actually some kind of acrylic material. It was gorgeous!

Probably my favorite thing in the entire show. City plates! Maps of world cities on a plate! I love maps! I don't like spending $50 on a single plate though :o(

17 March 2008

GREEN 2008

Where do I even begin? St. Patrick's Day, or March 17 of every year, is my favorite holiday. I like to tell people that it's my Christmas, birthday, and everything else rolled up into one, happy, green day. So, it being March 17, I want to wish everyone a very


But why? Everyone always asks me that. A few reasons, I guess, not the least of which is that I am part Irish and my family celebrates that element of our heritage. But also because it's a holiday with no obligations....we aren't obligated to buy anything for anyone, and instead we get to simply enjoy each other's company. It's a celebration of friendship!

Also, I think that today is my favorite holiday partially because of the color green, and all of its implications for me. If I had one wish for all of you on this St. Patrick's Day, it is my hope that you do something "green" for yourself.....change a lightbulb, ride the bus, ride your bike, go vegetarian, or plant a tree today. Celebrate your heritage, your friends, and the environment! You could do all three of these things by dyeing a river green, like they do in Chicago. I'm just saying!

And now it's time for me to go to LA's St. Patrick's Day parade! Have a great day!

16 March 2008

Giving my favorite jeans a second life

On Friday I wore my favorite jeans to school, and much to my dismay, I discovered I had worn a hole in a less-than-flattering spot. This happens to me regularly....I suppose when you are a certain shape, you can expect to wear out clothing in the same way again and again.

Immediately I decided to recycle my favorite jeans into a denim skirt. I've been searching for a good denim skirt for a while, and had decided that one probably does not exist for me because my lower body is so strangely shaped. So this presented the perfect opportunity for recycling something that I already knew fit me. For those of you who may have had a similar problem but didn't know what to do, I will show you what I did, step by step, and perhaps it will be helpful should you ever want to try it on your own!

Exhibit A: Favorite jeans, before the transformation (these are actually a different pair but I forgot to photograph the real pair before I ripped them apart, so yeah)

Step 1: Take the whole inseam of the pants apart with one of those little stitch-removing-tool thingys. I don't know the actual name but they look like a hook and you can get them at a fabric store. Here is what they looked like with the whole inseam pulled apart; then I laid them out flat from midpoint to midpoint, and I drew a line on the outside where they needed to be cut. I had pinned the spot where I wanted to cut them earlier while I had them on. I made sure to pin them in several places before cutting so the fabric wouldn't shift.

Step 2: After cutting, I put them on to check the length, and it was fine. I then gathered the seat of the pants to see where I might want to cut and sew back there. I decided that a more fitted rear end might work better, and would be easier to sew.....this would also mean that I could cut out the worn part and not worry about inserting a new panel. So I pinned it, put it on, checked it, and then I took it off, turned it inside out, and drew a line where I would sew in the back. Here is what that looks like.

Step 3: With the now-skirt pinned on the front and back, I sewed the rear up in one straight shot. I cut off the excess fabric and tried it on to find some bunching in the back underneath my bum....so I took them off and sewed another line, this one straighter, and that seemed to fix it. The whole time this was going on, my cat was doing yoga on the couch. Here, she shows off her "Lazy Feline" pose.

Step 4: The only thing that was left to do was to take one of the cut-off pant legs and make it into a front panel....because without the front panel, let's face it, the skirt wouldn't be a skirt, but an invitation. So I selected the part of the fabric that most resembled the rest of the skirt, and I pinned it in, which resulted in this amusing photo.

Step 5: At this point, the end is very near. With the pant leg pinned in the front, I very carefully tried on the skirt, and it fit. It was time to sew! I decided to sew it on top of what used to be the inseam of the pants, which meant that I cut out the extra tiny flap of fabric behind the old, worn seam to make the sewing easier (basically this meant only sewing 2 layers of denim instead of 3 - remember denim is tougher fabric and therefore harder to sew as well). I put it on the machine and sewed two parallel lines along each diagonal edge. The lines crossed each other as I had to sew up what used to be the crotch of the pants as well. When I got done, I cut off the remainder of the pant leg and tried it on one last time.....good, but a little long in the front. So I cut off an extra half inch or so, threw it in the wash, and voila - I have a new denim skirt! Here is the finished product, after the washing frayed the bottom quite nicely.

And there you have it. I got to recycle and create a one-of-a-kind wardrobe staple all at the same time. Not bad for one morning's worth of work!

14 March 2008

Celebrity sightings in LA to date

People always ask me, "have you seen any celebrities in Los Angeles since you moved there?" Well, yeah. It may be a bigger pond but if you increase the ratio of fish in that pond by about a hundred-fold, you're bound to catch more eventually.

Here is a list of celebrities I've seen in and around LA since I got here. This is as much of a tally for me as it is an FYI for you. Remember what People magazine says...."famous people are just like you and me!"....so we don't bother them or harass them when we see them. The most we do is acknowledge their presence, or, if it's Jeffrey from Project Runway (see below), we giggle a lot.

Tony Shalhoub of Monk at the Trader Joe's

image courtesy of img.tv.yahoo.com

Alexis Bledel of Gilmore Girls at an American Apparel concept store

image courtesy of viewimages.com

Sandra Oh (I think) at the Home Depot (I'm pretty sure it was her because her hair looked great, just like in this picture)

image courtesy of imageshack.us

Moon Bloodgood and Kevin McKidd of Journeyman shooting their fledgling TV show just down my street (I saw them early the morning after I had just watched the show, causing my groggy head to momentarily think they had time-traveled from San Francisco - where the show is set - to LA)

image courtesy of tvguide.com

Gary Sinise and Melina Kanakeredes of CSI:NY, also down the street from me, and also shooting their TV show (newsflash; LA is New York, people)

image courtesy of cbsnews.com

Jeffrey Sebelia, winner of Project Runway Season 3, in the lobby of my apartment building...this one, frankly, was the most exciting one for me!

image courtesy of bravotv.com

Timothy Hutton and Fisher Stevens (middle and right) at a Downtown LA Art Walk

image courtesy of viewimages.com

09 March 2008


....or, "In four words only, describe your weekend."

Last Saturday night, I went to a frat party. At this point in my life, I really have no interest (or business, for that matter) in going to a frat party, and I'm not going to get into the where, how, or why....suffice it to say that I have a friend who is involved with one and we thought it would be entertaining. And it was....it actually felt a little like I was on the Discovery Channel doing a show about Africa, like I had my safari hat on and I was taking pictures to document the wildlife. If Africa were a fraternity house and the "wildlife" were drunk undergrads in bathing suits.

On Sunday morning, after only a few hours of sleep, I got up and boarded a train to Anaheim for a visit to Disneyland. I have been to Disney World before, but with my friend Liz visiting, we decided it would be a great opportunity to see the original Happiest Place on Earth. It was, overall, a very pleasant day.....Disneyland is extremely well-kept, clean, and full of vibrant imagery pertaining to all of its rides and characters. And, despite the fact that half the rides we wanted to go on were closed (Space Mountain closed as we reached the front of the 45-minute-long line, in an ironic redoux of the time I tried to ride it in Disney World), we amused ourselves with people-watching, frozen treats, and a trip down Big Thunder Mountain.

While Liz and I dodged crowds - and strollers - at Disneyland under the gorgeous California sun, it occurred to me how similar our experience there was with the frat party the night before. I mean, it's all human theater, isn't it? The partiers were at their glitziest with make-up, jewelry and skimpy outfits while they reveled underneath lasers and bouncing beach balls meant to evoke a springtime theme. At Disneyland, people ate, drank, rode rides, and watched shows with characters meant to evoke a "happy" theme. Except both were false, in a sense, since both environments placed people in an unnatural context and encouraged them to "perform" in various ways. Both events were, in that respect, also exhausting - we can't walk around in giant heels and bikinis all day every day, just like we can't subject ourselves to roller coaster excitement constantly (at least I can't, without massive quantities of Dramamine).

But, as I like to say, each to his own. Despite the curiosity with which I approached both events, I did enjoy myself. And that's probably all anyone asks for, right?

frat party photo courtesy of Lisa...did you think I was kidding about the lasers?

What do you think Walt Disney is suggesting to Mickey, anyway?

fake wildlife, as opposed to the "wildlife" I saw Saturday night

This may have been the best thing I saw all day. People waited in line for 30-45 minutes to ride "Autopia", Disney's "funny-cars-on-a-track" ride. Except there was a traffic jam, which meant that people waited in line to simulate what they do every day in California - sit in traffic.

08 March 2008

I wear my sunglasses at night.

The headquarters for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, or LADWP, sits about a mile north of my apartment building, a few blocks west of City Hall, and near Los Angeles's newest architectural icons, Disney Concert Hall and the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels. It's an attractive building that seems to hover over water, which in reality is just a large water feature that surrounds the building and helps to cool it; its adjacent parking structure has an umbrella of solar PV collectors.

Still, even though this 1965 structure uses environmental design techniques not seen in much of the city, most people I know here complain about it because, "the lights in that building are always on. They are the DWP. Shouldn't they turn their lights off at night?"

Well, I am here to tell you that the LADWP, despite appearances, is doing its part. I just got my latest power bill which included a tiny brochure about the DWP's conservation members. And since I'm probably the only person in LA who actually reads stuff like this, I will tell you what they have to say:

"With such a high level of visibility, energy conscious customers often call our 24-hour Customer Call Center and ask why lights remain on in the building after normal working hours. Allow us to shed some light on the subject. (Oh, LADWP, you're so funny....)

-The building lights are programmed to turn on at 6 am and turn off at 6 pm M-F, and stay off throughout the weekend. Once the lights have been automatically turned off, building occupants can manually turn lights on in order to continue working after-hours. During the 'off' period, the control system automatically sweeps the entire building turning most lights off on an hourly basis.

-Unlike other downtown buildings, the windows at LADWP headquarters are not heavily tinted, which gives the appearance that lights have not been turned off.

-The LA Fire Department requires emergency lighting throughout the building at all times.

-There are many business operations in the building that function 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.

-Most building maintenance and construction work is done after normal business hours to minimize disruptions and ensure safety."

The brochure goes on to describe other conservation measures in place, such as recently improved lighting efficiency and restrooms retrofitted with low-flow toilets.

I don't know about you, but I find this type of communication by a government agency rather impressive. Maybe I am not used to living in California yet but I'm amazed that not only are they trying to save energy, they are actually telling us about it. This from a 40-year-old building whose 2- or 3-year-old neighbors have no discernible energy conservation measures that I know of (but they had to pass Title 24, right?). I mean, who's responsible for new institutions in this city and why can't they emulate the LADWP's model? Of course it's not perfect...perfect would be carbon-neutral, and I don't know any institutional buildings that do that yet. But the standard is there, why can't we have that again?

In the meantime, have a look at LADWP's Green LA initiatives....and turn your lights off!

LADWP, with its high-efficiency emergency lights on, thank you very much

07 March 2008

Happy Thoughts to Quell a Growing Discontent

I've had so much to do lately, I've barely had time to stop and look around and take everything in. Earlier today I thought to myself "my life is killing me"....oh the irony. It's already a week into March and I feel like New Year's just happened. I think that I have been learning so much, and meeting so many great people, it's easy to get caught up and not really make time for myself.

Unfortunately some of the longest stretches of "down time" I've had recently took place at bus stops. There's something about waiting for a bus that makes you so singularly focused on one thing - that glowing yellow head sign in the distance - that you must think about something else or else you'll become one of the crazy people that you pass on the way there. These are the topics that I think about while I'm waiting:

1) My schedule. God help me.
2) Impending social activities, and the potential for more....
3) What I'm going to write on the blog next (I've got about 4 posts backlogged, are you ready?)
4) After yesterday, I am now thinking about this:

image courtesy of TreeHugger.com

Take a nice long look....this is probably my perfect car. I mean, until cars can fly and are truly futuristic, but for now, for 200-, that is my perfect car. It is Volkswagen's new diesel-hybrid-electric engine Golf. Yes indeed, it's a Golf with two engines, one that can run on diesel, which means biodiesel, which means waste vegetable products, and the other which is electric, and emits no carbon dioxide whatsoever. In fact the diesel portion of the engine has greatly reduced its emissions as well, and if you run on WVO....you'll just smell like french fries!

I have no idea when this thing is supposed to hit the American market but I'm hoping it's sometime shortly after I obtain a job with a salary to pay for it. I loved my old GTI, it was just a great size for hauling stuff and people, and the notion that I could get the benefits of my old car plus the technology that I demand as an environmentally-conscious consumer makes me really happy.

So, this will keep me mentally busy for my next few visits to the bus stop. After that, maybe I'll start thinking about how cute the Vetrix all-electric scooter could be if they actually tried a little harder.

06 March 2008

Olive and Black

Today I walked out of the house in an Olive green t-shirt, with my Olive green H&M jacket, after having put on some Body Shop Olive skin lotion. Although I never used to be a fan of the color because of its close association with the military, I've rediscovered it lately, and its ability to go with nearly everything I have in my closet. It's my new khaki, an utterly versatile neutral, and it works for me.

The other color that works for me is black, and this was the color of the evening on the Project Runway Season 4 Finale last night. (Yay! I finally get to blog about it!) I love all sorts of design, and fashion is an indulgent way of expressing art. Well if fashion is an indulgence, then Project Runway is my ice cream....as far as reality TV goes, it doesn't get any better. All three of this season's very talented final contestants had black throughout their collection, and Christian had it for probably the first half of his. Nonetheless, the show was phenomenal....all three of the collections were innovative and gorgeous. The piece that made me gasp was the last one we saw, Christian's two-toned feather dress....astounding:

***WARNING! Spoiler alert! If you haven't seen the finale, stop reading!***

So when it came time to pick a winner, I honestly had no idea who they were going to pick. The workmanship was at such a high-level, for me it was a toss-up. Each designer had a piece that I didn't care for, and several that I was in love with. I would buy Jillian's jaunty jacket in a heartbeat if I saw it in a boutique (and what color was it? Olive!). In the end though, if everyone is at the same level, I guess they had to go with the one that gave them the most drama, and that was Christian. His show started off bold and just kept getting more and more spectacular. In reality, Rami or Jillian could have won as well, but they've gotten enough exposure at this point to where they didn't need to, really. So Christian and his "fierceness" picked up a cool $100,000 and some car (I think it was a wee Saturn hatchback), and now the rest of us are back to wondering when the next season will start up again. In the meantime, unless you have some design talent and want to audition for Tim Gunn.....at least we have Top Chef to keep us occupied.

03 March 2008

Things I feel compelled to tell you about.

Recently, I've been waxing poetic on a number of issues, and rather than feeling like I'm constantly repeating myself, I thought I might put it all up here.

1. Some people I know have blogs. My dear friend Clair just got back from Antarctica where she spent (their) summer as a Solid Waste Technician. (I wonder if she knows that I've been playing with trash too?) My roommate Gretchen takes beautiful pictures and often puts them on her equally attractive blog. My friend Liz writes long and hilarious stories about her experiences with food in whatever place she happens upon at the time. My cousin Matthew updates his blog constantly with political pieces with which I frequently disagree, but I also think it's important to challenge one's beliefs with opposing viewpoints so that you understand yourself better. Thanks to Matthew I understand my beliefs quite well, LOL.

2. Some people I don't know have blogs. Although I have never met them, some of my Archinect and internet cohorts maintain rich and stimulating blogs that I would recommend to casual readers. Architechnophilia continues to amaze me with his ability to find great architecture, like a DJ can find a great song. BLDG BLOG is written and produced by Geoff Manaugh, who must have been bequeathed with super-human time-expanding powers when he was recently installed as Editor of Dwell Magazine. And, in my favorite blog discovery of perhaps the past several months, we now have an authority on Stuff White People Like, and their daily updates are amusingly accurate.

3. The Arctic ice cap could be gone by summer. But don't take it from me, take it from Treehugger, who are probably way better at citing their sources than I am.

4. St. Patrick's Day is two weeks from today. As it is my favorite holiday, this is very important, and it almost snuck up on me. Start getting your plans in order, everyone! In the meantime, I have to figure out parade routes, where to eat, and which green wig to wear....

01 March 2008

Animal Style

Sometimes it's best to avoid massive amounts of storytelling when a picture is capable of telling you everything you need to know. It's been a joyful and whirlwind weekend in my apartment, due mainly to my two houseguests, a visiting puppy, and a healthy dose of mischief. Crazy? Yes, and I love every minute of it.

The puppy hurt his leg in the melee of apartment activities this weekend. It will be OK in a week, several days after we give him back, which I am not looking forward to.

A Cincinnati roommate, a college roommate, my current roommate - all in my current apartment

The story behind why I keep a "Prince Aidan" action figure at my desk in studio is to long to tell you here. Suffice it to say it is giving me many opportunities for amusement.

Liz ordered her In And Out Burger meal "Animal Style", and remarkably, it came out looking like this. Liz is a food genius!