Observation No. 5

As soon as you care, you are vulnerable. Not caring about anything is a safe (however unfulfilling) method to make your way through this unkind world.

On Being A Generalist

Just sittin’ here, eating a donut, drinking some coffee, taking a break from the studies, ruminating about being a generalist. Here’s to the generalists of the world… the ones who a) can’t make up their mind about what they want to do with their life (aka “what I want to be when I grow up,” b) get bored to tears when they are committed to doing anything too specific for any significant amount of time, c) are interested in so many things that they always feel like there is something out there they are missing and d) keep switching their focus right when they’re getting good at something (taking care to do it just before they become adept at the task at hand and actually have something productive to offer society).

We generalists just can’t get too much of that good ol’ big picture. In fact, we try to keep stepping back until everything makes sense. The irony of this activity is, everything will never, ever, ever make sense. And if it ever did, it would probably be too much to handle and it would blow our minds. So generalists get frustrated a lot. We look for behavior that ties these crazy beings called humans all together. And yes, sometimes we find little hints of it – of “the truth,” the universal. But more often than not, human actions confuse us so much that we want to quickly assume the fetal position and weep like a big fat baby.

“Things” in this world do often fit together in fascinating ways – mathematics, ecosystems, human behavior, economies, etc. But life, as a rule, seems to be about the confusion of the day-to-day getting in the way of our clear view of reality. And maybe that’s a good thing. In fact, if society didn’t have things like eating, reproducing and not-dying to worry about, it would spend all of its time doing things like soul searching, creating art, discovering the meaning of life, etc., and humans might eventually figure this crazy existence out. And then, what would be the point? We’d pretty much be all done then – let’s turn out the lights, put the Earth in cold storage and go to sleep for a few millennia until our collective memory loses track of everything again.

No, that particular course of fate wouldn’t make any sense. In addition to survival, it’s a good thing society has lots of other things to distract it, such as: handing little bits of green paper back and forth, putting food on the table, creating neat personal websites, finding new ways to “add value,” getting a ski rack for the VW, and paying off credit card bills. Figuring things out should be left to the poor saps who can’t focus on one thing long enough to get their mind off everything.

Leave it to the generalists, the poor bastards.

Rosie and I saw Best in Show last night with some friends. Result: laugh till pain. I'm biased, though. I think I'd like anything that Christopher Guest and the Spinal Tap/Waiting for Guffman crew put out. I eat that stuff up. I used to know a guy who, when I asked his opinion of Waiting for Guffman, responded with, "That kind of humor is just completely lost on me." Man, that's too bad. I mean, really, too too bad.
So Opensewer Ithaca was last night. The gathering went until about midnight, and lemme tell ya, I was really hungry when we left that bar. When a human is hungy, that human tends to gravitate toward the nearest place with available food. That place, in this case, happened to be "Wendy's." I went in, purchased some fast "food," as they say, and came out to find the scattered few remaining intellectually exhausted Opensewer attendees laughing at me. “You’re eating at Wendy’s right after we just spent 5 hours talking about misplaced values and homogenization of products? Way to be consistent, Jason.”

Hey, man, I was hungry. Brain drain.

Some Thursdays are better than others for me. Thursday is the day that I’m on campus from 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM. It’s a long day. But today was a pretty good day. Today, I had a great conversation with some (very helpful) friends about something that I can’t tell you about, but if it turns out well you’ll find out soon enough, oh yes you will. Also, today I had a conversation with another graduate student and the Professor of this class, and I actually felt as if I knew what I was talking about (which is a major step for me in this particular class). You see, I almost dropped the class (although it is important) because it dealt with material that was so foreign to me, it sounded like the professor was, literally, speaking another language when he lectured. Well, eventually it sunk in (and I worked my ass off), and now I must say that I actually quite enjoy it. Isn’t life funny that way?

Also, Opensewer Ithaca (the one that Rosie and I are attending) is tomorrow and I'm pumped...

Ok, so I'm just a little bit pist. I can't believe it, but Opensewer has been plagiarized again. Now, I know I shouldn't even acknowledge these creeps by linking to them, but I'm going to anyway because they should be exposed. The most recent violation is here, and you can check out remnants of an older thief here. Send 'em a friendly hate-mail if the urge grabs you.

Why does this happen? Come on people, it's really not that difficult to come up with your own stuff! I suppose that once a site starts getting decent traffic and exposure, things like this are expected to happen once in a while. But it's not like anyone on the web is doing anything so creative, so unique, that it simply cannot be surpassed and so it must be copied! I remember almost a year ago when this happened to k10k. Now it's happened to OS twice, and I have to tell you, it really hurts. It feels like a violation- something that you put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into and then part of it just gets ripped-off and re-used. It's so sad- these people don't even do a good job of hiding their transgressions.

So I suppose we'll send them the standard cease and desist letter, and try to put an end to it. Has this ever happened to you? I'd like you to tell me about it...

Rosie and I both posted new feature articles over at Opensewer. You know, it's really an immensely liberating feeling just to lets things off your chest once in a while...
Here's something good... and how about this... Mmmmm.
Ithaca, New York: Where more Wall Street Journal's are wasted, lying on the front porches and in the yards of enthusiastic undergraduates ("Yeah, I'll subscribe to the WSJ - that's professional!"), than any other city I've ever seen. Some of these students' houses have scattered piles of yellowing WSJ papers twenty or thirty high in the front yard. They look like dandelions that need to be mowed away.
On Becoming An Architect
(An Incomplete Theory)

Okay – I think I have a few things figured out about becoming an architect. Time has changed things. It has changed the definition of an architect, and the influence that an architect has. I'm going to attempt to address this.

When a person first dreams about becoming an architect, he dreams about the things he can build. However, it is quickly realized that he has no real say in what gets built. Someone else decides that – someone with money, someone who is an entrepreneur… someone who has taken a risk and gone out on a limb, possibly putting his or her own well being in jeopardy in order to place something on the earth.

So, a theory about the path one must take to become an architect – in the old sense… the master builder sense.

First, one must undertake training in design. Training in design is critical to develop a keen eye that truly sees the world. Training in design is needed to relate humans to buildings (things), and buildings (things) to the earth. It is irresponsible to mark the earth without having a firm, holistic understanding of design. However, much of what is placed on the earth is done by those who lack this understanding. Many people who mark the earth understand economics, but not humanity. This is dangerous.

Secondly, perhaps concurrently, one must undertake training in business and economics. This part of the education cannot be avoided, since money is the lifeblood (for better or for worse) that enables ideas to manifest themselves in this world. The lack of this training in designers is problematic. Why are the ones who define the environments that relate humans to the natural world so apparently unconcerned with the prevailing method a valuation that society has chosen for itself (money)? How can you design if you don’t understand the resources that it takes to physically manifest something?

Architects must reposition themselves into the role of the one who decides the essence of a thing. This is what we’ve lost over time. This is where our frustration comes from. When your training and experience includes a sophisticated understanding of design and a sophisticated understanding of economics, then you can be in a position to give birth to ideas that you yourself can implement. You can truly CREATE – not just give form to other peoples' ideas.