21 August 2011

Love is a battlefield

and my brain is a bookmarker.  Seriously.  I just realized this. 

The people closest to me represent the widest range of memory types, from long-term post-seizure brain scramble (it's a real thing! look it up!) to photographic, near eidetic memory.  I am situated firmly in between those two extremes; I'm grateful for what my brain chooses to retain, but always frustrated that it isn't better. 

That frustration stems from my ability to almost remember anything.  That's not a split infinitive; that's the verb.  To almost remember.  If I'm trying to recall a specific detail of a project about which I've read, I can't; but I can remember (after a moment) where I read it, usually including minutiae like the author, the accompanying graphic, and one or two of the more annoying comments.  That's happened more times than I can count.  Or if I'm trying to remember a particular punchline by one of my friends, the joke will elude me; but I can remember exactly where we were, and when (sometimes down to the minute!), and what the joke-teller was wearing.

How useless this all is!  Why, I plea with my brain, won't it remember what I want it to remember, especially when I want to remember it?  I suspect that if I were to try to think of the joke-teller's outfit or that picture, the target would again evade me and I'd have to think around the corners until I finally got to what I wanted. 

That's the thing, though; I do, almost always, remember exactly what I'm grasping for, or remember precisely where to look for the information.  I don't have the encyclopedic recall I crave, but I have, for better or worse, the next best thing: the recall of the encyclopedic...index.   

Maybe that's not a bad thing; maybe not keeping it all in my brain lets there be room for more indices than there would be otherwise!  Maybe that's wishful thinking...but maybe that's okay, too.

18 August 2011

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

A Blooming Idea

Michigan Idea doesn't exist yet.  Wait - does it?  I guess it depends on what your definition of "is" is, and not wanting this to devolve into some sort of political or ontological porkbarreling, let's say that it almost does.

What Michigan Idea will be, when it exists, is an archive: a record of interdisciplinary work taking place on the University of Michigan's North Campus - what one recent College of Engineering dean referred to as "the Renaissance Campus".  That title is not a stretch when you consider that Music, Theatre, Dance, Art, Design, Architecture, Urban Planning, and every kind of Engineering you can think of is all housed less than a mile from each other (and more than a mile from the rest of campus!).  We're a simmering hotbed of creation up here, and it would be great if there were a documenting entity.

Enter ArtsEngine, the brainchild (and only joint initiative, so far) of the four North Campus deans: a non-academic office that facilitates collaboration between the units and helps to increase the transparency of each to the others.  Lots of buzzwords?  Maybe.  But imagine how exciting it could be to a cartographer to know that an engineer and a musician figured out how to set the Michigan coastline to music.  (That really happened!)  Or how funny it was when Dr. Duderstadt's office was constantly interrupted by motion-sensitive metallic fire conceived and executed by an engineer, an artist and an architect.  ArtsEngine, in turn, is sponsoring a student group: Michigan Idea.

Michigan Idea's purpose and projects have been unclear from the start: not from lack of enthusiasm, but more from lack of being able to describe both adequately to themselves and in turn to others.  I inherited the sort-of-group and have decided to make it my own personal project: to crystallize its mission and cement the foundation of its continuing legacy.

More on MIdea as it evolves.

12 August 2011

Thesis year looms.

(That actually implies a little more dread than I'm comfortable admitting, and doesn't reveal any of the anticipation I also feel.)

The anticipation has played itself out all summer in voracious reading.  I started with some histories of philosophy (Sophie's World, Delacampagne's A History of Philosophy in the 20th Century) in order to more intelligently ground my thinking about my work; and also to lend that thinking a more global and general context than just an architectural read.  Also picked up Abraham Maslow's Behavior and Motivation; being a long, long-standing fan of his 'hierarchy', it seemed like now was a good time to delve deeper into his work.  Not sure I could have picked a more appropriate work, as far as an intersection between my personal and professional lives; also not sure how I'll incorporate it into my actual work, but I'm finding it fantastically illuminating.

The reading has been deep, dense, and appropriately confusing/helpful.  I also wanted to take this time to up the oomph on my representation techniques by working on technical skills, so I've spent a lot of time going through video tutorials and self-created practice exercises.  I watched a mix of series and independent productions; of the former, I found lynda.com's tutorial blogger Deke McClelland and his Deke's Techniques and architect Alex Hogrefe's blog the most informative.  Below are some of the tests I worked through.  Next step is to go back through my own old work and apply what I've learned to real?-world samples.

All things considered, I'm looking forward to thesis work.  I'm excited about finding topics to study in-depth, about finding solutions, and about synthesizing all of this with representation.  This reminds me more than a little of how I felt just before starting kindergarten: I'm not sure what's coming, but bring it on!