Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Today's activities in the TBH atrium perfectly demonstrate why you shouldn't stand up in front of a group of architecture students and try to fake your way through a lecture on trusswork. It also explains why you see kids running around with packs of uncooked spaghetti on the last weekend before final critiques. The studio is a competition: who can build the strongest, most stable structure out of uncooked pasta and glue? I'm not sure what the design parameters were, other than it needed to have four feet and a central space from which to suspend blocks (a basic version of the experiment is described on Science Buddies). I only got to watch a few, but I think the last one I saw was up to 28 lbs. before it crashed to the ground. Good stuff, that spaghetti.
Beth: It was Francis Drake. Next time we forget, we can just look at this post:

The Secret Voyage of Sir Francis Drake: 1577-1580.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Dear obnoxious business students in the Undergraduate Library:

See those doors over there? They lead into rooms specially designed for group work. Next time, start your project early enough to reserve one of those rooms ahead of time because you know what? None of us give a damn about your stupid Barnes and Noble coffee shop project. None of us care that you think you know everything there is to know about centralization v. decentralization models. None of us want to listen to you yell at each other because you're too stupid and too arrogant to stop and listen to what your teammates are trying to say before you express your own half-baked idea. Hey, I get that this is a convenient place to do group work. Look around--there are many groups here working on their final projects, but why do you think yours is the only group getting dirty looks from everybody else in the library? Didn't your parents teach you about "inside voices"? No? Well, here's a hint: it doesn't involve yelling just to make yourself heard over the rest of your babbling idiot classmates. You know why you're yelling? Because you all keep making dumbass mistakes with your PowerPoint presentation, and you keep making more every time you try to fix them. You know why? Because you tried to do all the work an hour before your final presentation. So, because you all didn't get your act together and plan ahead, we have to sit here for 45 minutes and listen to you behave like children. She didn't save the PowerPoint after printing? Well, maybe she was flustered because you'd just spent ten minutes yelling at her. Can't find it even after you saved it? Maybe you should shut the fuck up and let the guy at the keyboard look for it, instead of contradicting everything he's trying to tell you. You know what I really want? The e-mail address for your professor. I'd like to tell him just how bad you all are at group work, and I'd like to tell him that you all deserve to fail for disrupting the entire south side of the UGL for an hour because each one of you has the MOST IMPORTANT VIEWPOINT THAT MUST BE EXPRESSED and god forbid any of us should try not to listen to you. Morons.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

No time to write, but can you imagine what Ray Bradbury could do with this story?

Monday, April 09, 2007

I'm about to leave town for just a few hours short of an entire week. That would almost qualify as a vacation if it didn't involve going to the SAH annual meeting. I have to say, I'm not highly excited about the program (sorry to all those who worked very hard putting the panels, etc. together, but...I'm just not). I know there are tons of people out there not studying European or American architectural history, but apparently they are not proposing sessions for SAH. Give me a year, and I'll have something to say myself.

Anyway, we're taking a road trip. Has anyone else noticed that the only time I get to spend time with my wife, we're on our way somewhere else? She's taking time off work at a very horrible time to be doing so because this may be our last "vacation" together until Thanksgiving. We've got tickets to see two houses by Frank Wright (doesn't he sound just *normal* when you don't use his middle name), Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob, on Saturday. That may be the most interesting part of the week, we'll see.

Then it's back here for one final push on those four research projects. I'm stalled on project two right now. I need to stop thinking of it as potential dissertation material and think of it as just one last seminar paper to knock out and finish. But it's for one of the smartest people I've ever met, and I don't want her to think it sucks. I psyched myself out this same way last semester, and I've got to just stop obsessing about quality and write the damn thing.

Still and all, it's looking like I might get through the program. I'm worried about exams--less about the historiographical/methodological exam questions and more about my basic lack of knowledge of South Asian architecture. I don't even have a Master's level competency in the built environment of India/Pakistan/Bangladesh/Sri Lanka. It would have helped if I'd actually had a class on say, oh, Indian Architecture, at some point in my endless years of education. But, no. I had a ten week class on Indian art in 1990, and a ten week class on "humanities of India" in 1986. Can I be expected to remember the content of a class I took 17 and 21 years ago? No.

I am taking a seminar on Rajput architecture this semester, and it's helped immensely. I'm learning tons, but mostly it all predates my time period, so it's not directly related to my exams. I'm trying not to get too anxious about it all because it does seem as if the dissertation is already taking shape. At least, I turned in a rough draft of a seminar paper on the colonial historiography of my site, and the professor thought I was well on my way to having the first chapter. That's putting the cart before the horse, I need to actually defend the proposal before writing the chapter, but at least I now know what to propose for my first chapter--something slightly different than the expected literature review, but still demonstrating that I know my postcolonial theory. I have a date of January 15 for my minor field exam. I'd still like to take the two major field exams in November, but we'll see.

Did I say site? I meant sites. This is the first time I've ever tried to work on multiple sites simultaneously. Try coming up with a filing system for a literature that covers five observatories. Thank god for bibliographic software. As long as I note on the computer which article is stored in which manila folder, I don't have to obsess quite so much. "This article covers both the Varanasi observatory and the Ujjain one. Where do I file it? If I file it by author's last name, how will I know by looking at the file label which observatories it covers?" and so on. Anyway, thank you Endnote, you've made my life much easier even if you hard-coded the Ibid. record wrong for the Turabian output style (idiots).

So, yes, I am guardedly optimistic that I will finish the program. My dissertation committee is in place. I have two architectural historians, one landscape historian, and two "regular" historians. I am spending a lot of time with a third historian, reading interesting books together and just generally working my way toward friendship (keeping in mind that I have an abysmal track record in that area). I'm hoping that between these six people, someone will keep me from dropping out again. If I quit, it will clearly be because of exams--they seem dark, mysterious and terror-inducing. If I can get through those, I think I'll be fine.

Not sure how much typing will get done in this little box between now and May 14. My one goal for the summer is to write more--I did a horrible job posting about India last summer. This summer, I will do better. Wait, what? I forgot to mention I was going to be in India this summer? I guess I did forget. I leave June 7, get back August 18. Catherine is being an amazingly good sport about it. I'm horribly sad about missing YET ANOTHER SUMMER AT HOME, but also looking forward to being in Jaipur again. I am a conflicted individual, no doubt about it.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Okay, people, yes, I am the reason your RSS feed is going crazy. Those aren't new posts. Those are old and boring and whiny posts. But I found a backup that seems to have most of the stuff I lost when I deleted my blog in a panic once long ago, so I'm transferring it over. Because it's more important to do that than write the paper that might form the basis of the second chapter of my dissertation. Really. It is.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Okay, this seems like the quickest way to handle this for now. We finally got tired of having our mail stolen--well, okay, they stole the mailbox, too, this time, so we've finally subscribed to a post office box. To those of you who put pen to paper to write to me, the post office box is 1603. But you need to change the last number of my zipcode to 2. If you don't know my zipcode, well then, you probably haven't ever written me a letter, so you don't care about my mailbox, anyway.

ETA: Yeah. Next time, I should double-check the box number for before writing in the blog. It's correct now, anyway.