30 December 2009

Happiness is catching up with my friends over coffee

... or better yet, brunch! Either way, I've just returned from a whirlwind trip back to Cincinnati for Christmas, where my greatest gift was spending time and catching up with family and friends who now live far, far away. Perhaps absence does make the heart grow fonder, or in my case, it makes me realize the importance of my roots. Remembering where I came from was a theme that resonated throughout my 7-day trip to the Queen City, after having been gone a year - the longest absence I can remember in my life. Fortunately, the city of Cincinnati changes more slowly and more stubbornly than any of my human friends and family, so it's not too hard to figure out what I've missed and what's sprung up since I saw it last. I'm grateful for that much.

I was once accused of having the personality of a chameleon, a revelation which didn't offend me so much as it made me realize that I love to communicate with people, many different kinds of people. I like it so much in fact that I challenge myself when making new friends by associating their names with their incredibly rich stories, and I inevitably find something about them that amazes me. It's not hard to remember the stories of my Cincinnati friends though - their stories are my stories, since I spent much of the last decade creating my own history. It's absolutely SURREAL to me that I'm about to begin a new decade, with a new group of friends, and a new job, in a new and wonderful city. I mean, 2010? Where did that come from? I didn't see it coming at all. You'd think since I'm good at basic math, I'd have noticed that it was 2009 and been a little more prepared. But I'm not, not really.

In truth, most good people amaze me. And since nearly everyone I want to spend time with is a good person, most of the people I know amaze me. So by now you're thinking, "but wouldn't this mean that you walk around dazed all the time?" and the answer is YES, I do! Which is why I have to concentrate extra hard to get things done, and when driving. :o)

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the amazing people I saw in the last week; first, my entire family, including all of my aunts and uncles, my young cousins (all taller than me now, the buggers), my great aunt, my step-family, and my parents. And then my friends, who put up with me trying to see as many of them as I could and didn't mind my crazy schedule; Adam, Ryan, Clair, Aaron, Suzi, Ciara, Chip, Loraine, Lauren, Amanda, Patricia, Laura, Chris, Dan, Ron, Forest, Zak, a new friend named Josh, and Liz, who got food poisoning but still managed to come and see me for 5 minutes. Last but not least, my best friends, Katie and Caroline, who still enjoy kidnapping me whenever possible (and which they did this last week). I do miss seeing my other friends - including Scott, David, Steve, Abby, Andy, Gretchen, Miguel, Kendra, Erin, Jason, Ian, Gerad, Dana, seriously, there's too many to call out - but I know they are all out there, scattered, and doing good things, and generally being awesome. But I look forward to making new friends here in Portland, which is also full of generally awesome people, so that's exciting too.

So I dedicate this, my last post of the year, to all of my friends, both old and new. Happy New Year, Happy New Decade, and here's to hoping that 2010 is better than 2009. Because 2009 really sucked, right? Sheesh....

19 December 2009

So apparently I have nothing to say when I'm not in school.

...Although now that I am out of school, I am getting emails asking for money from my alum. Which I briefly considered, until I read through the rest of the email from the Dean of my graduate school, in which he said this:
In this difficult economy, we are dedicated to making our students the best prepared, most innovative in the nation. Competition for jobs has become more intense – and it's incumbent upon us to provide that vital edge to compete and create value in a global marketplace. And that means knowledge of digital techniques: parametric design, scripting, fabrication, digital communication, Building Information Modeling.

Even once our graduates have found a job, these are often the skills that will help them keep it.
There are many things that got me fired up this week - the health care fight in Congress and the Copenhagen Climate Conference among them - but my reaction to this email has been the most profound for my own life and that of my fellow professionals. Some of this has even been posted in other places because I keep refining my argument as I think more and more about it. As I wrote to my former professors immediately after I received this email,
"I appreciate what (the Dean) is trying to do for the school, but I am at a loss as to why he failed to mention energy modeling in his long list of "digital techniques" that the students should be learning. The profession of architecture is at risk right now, and from my perspective, I know I wouldn't have a job if I hadn't learned those skills (in graduate school). I do have architecture friends who can make a mean 3D model in Rhino or Maya... but they've been unemployed for the better part of the last year, with few prospects in sight. With the adoption of Architecture 2030 goals into building code as a real possibility on the horizon, architecture students need more of an idea how to make energy efficient buildings, and perhaps they should spend less time on making prettier, faster ones."
It's like this: there is going to be a time in the near future when designing a sustainable or energy efficient building won't be a choice... it will be required. And I am deeply concerned for my profession, because unless architects start to respond to this situation, we are going to be left out of the process. I can guarantee you that other professionals and other types of businesses will capitalize on architects' inability to respond to prevailing market conditions. I think it's absolutely imperative that architects become at least conversant in sustainable and energy-lite design strategies, so that we can manage the design of buildings properly and guide the process like we should, instead of looking like a deer in the headlights when our consultants and clients ask us for a greener building. Perhaps we can collectively find our way out of the forest before that happens?...

02 December 2009

I support President Obama on Afghanistan.

I know this isn't a particularly popular stance to take, especially in liberal circles. But I have always thought that Afghanistan is where we should be fighting, since it is the front line in the war against Islamic extremists, not to mention it is ground zero for the systematic oppression of women, who would still be barred from schools and treated worse than dogs had we not chased off the Taliban. I think the President knows this and instead of cut and run, as many in his own party wish him to, he is going to give it a real try, and devote the resources necessary to trying to win the hearts and minds of those most vulnerable to Al Qaeda.

Yes, I'm sure the President knows how much it's going to cost, and how much of that money could be spent on domestic programs. Yes, I'm sure he knows that many think it's a lost cause, and that Afghanistan can never be "conquered". And I am certain that Obama has considered the toll that it will take on our already-stretched troops. But that's why we elected him - because we trusted him to make the best decision with the information that he has available to him. Sometimes the best decision is a really hard one, and it's not pretty.

People that worked hard to get Obama elected should remember why they did so when, just 10 months into his young Presidency, he has to make a big decision they don't like. I learned yesterday that MoveOn.org spoke out against the surge in Afghanistan in an email they sent out - an email that I didn't get, and a position they didn't solicit my opinion on. I found this interesting since they spent so much time and effort asking for my money to support the health care fight only a week ago. I do agree with them on that, but I find their stance on the Afghan war to be self-serving and short-sighted. I will have to remember this when they ask for my money the next time.

Perhaps this surge won't work. Perhaps, in two years, when troops begin to come home, we won't have a clear idea of whether the war-torn country is going to make it on its own. But these are the moves that we should have been making 8 years ago, and I commend the President for having the guts to follow through and give it a try... even if it ends up being too little, too late.