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back from the dead

May 4, 2008 Leave a comment

talk about taking a break.  my last post was back in october 07 – let’s see, what was life like back then?  aside from my daughter not having been born yet, not all that much was different – of course, my daughter being born is all the difference it takes to go from day to night, black to white.  two totally different worlds.  life has been good since she was born in november – watching her grow everyday is pretty much all i care about at the moment.

i’ve finally gotten back into the swing of finishing some renovations on the house that i started before she was born – hopefully i’ll get them done in the next month so that i can move on to the next round of fixes: remove the crappy corrugated plastic overhang on the back porch and replace it w/ a trellis.  i’ve also started the design for our landscaping, which won’t exactly be cheap, but is the first thing to do when increasing home value.  major home renovation (aside from painting and installing wood floors) will have to wait.

i’m completing 100% construction documents for my current project this week.  very exciting – i’ve been on the project since design development, though i’ve watched and sat on crits during schematic design.  it’s a really nice and simple, small addition to a university building here in austin.  next week i’ll move onto a new charter elementary school project, which will be really exciting.  it’s set to be LEED silver, which means i finally will have the time to actually get LEED certified (which was on my to-do list since last september).

haven’t done much travel since the munchkin was born, aside from going up to dallas to visit w/ her grandparents.  did go to houston one weekend for a friend’s wedding shower – it was pretty much my first time there, but only had time to visit the contemporary arts museum.  great exhibit on…contemporary design.  mies’ museum of fine arts was across the street, but you need more time to visit that.  i’m excited to go back – some good architecture out there.

also went up to NY for the first part of passover – at 5 months old, it was munchkinface’s first flight.  she did pretty well, but that was thanks to the tubes in her ears installed 2 wks prior – she already had 4 ear infections, so tubes were pretty much the only recourse aside from constant doses of antibiotics, which are not at all cool.  she was a bit fussy in NY – i think the flight, plus change in scenery and new crib were a bit much.  she got to meet some of her cousins and spend precious time w/ my parents and sister, which of course is the most important part of these visits.  2 days after we returned, my sister came to visit for 5 days – it was great.

ok, good update.  back to work, and hopefully some more regular posts again.

twitter like

September 29, 2007 Leave a comment

don’t want to start a twitter account, it’s just one more account to maintain – but i do want that functionality.  blogging will have to remain the method. weekend working: construction document set going out on monday, it’s our drop-dead date on this project that has been an extremely cool mess.  the client is clueless, and this is not typical architectural disdain for a lesser mortal – this guy says one thing today, which is different from what he said yesterday and different from what he’ll say tomorrow and contradicts every email and documentation he’s ever sent.  the budget gets cut back, and half our design will likely be VE’d out.  anyway, our deadline has been moved back and back, and it can’t be pushed back any further.  thank god.  i have a baby coming in a few weeks and i need to finish working on the house!  cindy has gone into nesting mode and is freaking that these things aren’t done, but i can’t do them until this deadline has passed. 

Categories: architecture, work

taken an offer!

April 23, 2007 1 comment

fantastic – i just accepted an offer today with my top choice architecture firm here in austin. they extended the offer last week, and i was seriously contemplating the offer from my 2nd choice, but ultimately the quality of the outfit at firm#1 took the trump card. the design, engineering, and project goals are more in line with what i want to do and how i want to develop as an architect. they’re reorganizing the firm to have a more progressive design focus, and there is a major push on tech research, with relationships formed with MIT Media Lab and other outfits that i don’t yet know about. supposedly a laser cutter is in the pipeline. there is also a major focus on sustainability, which of course is extremely important to me, and my focus on sustainability likely gave me a big up in getting the job. the benefit package is really good, and they’re flexible on me taking time when my child comes into the world this november. 🙂 and not that it made a difference in my decision, but having our offices on the 22nd floor of a 23 floor bldg (one of the tallest in austin) with balconies doesn’t hurt either!

Categories: architecture, Austin, work

year of MAJOR changes

April 18, 2007 Leave a comment

what a year it’s been, and not even half over yet!  i got married in late december (i’m considering it part of this year for the sake of the major changes), have a selection of job offers from which to choose, my wife is moving to a new firm this summer, we’re looking to move into a new house by early fall, and we’re expecting our first child in november.  i have to be thankful at a time like this b/c things are going so well.  i hope they hold out like this for a long time.

Categories: family, misc., work

2nd job offer!

April 17, 2007 1 comment

i had another interview w/ my #2 choice, and it went pretty well.  they do a lot of commercial work, but it was compelling.  i’d be working on a pretty cool project, and there’s a lot of room for growth and initiative there.  the downside of the commerical work is that turnaround times are faster and there’s less time or room for intense detailing.  also, the commercial world hasn’t jumped full-on into the sustainable mindset, so it’s kind of hit/miss w/ how i might be able to design for a while.  this firm wants my knowledge and push for sustainable design, though, so they’d be utilizing me to the fullest extent possible.  my rapport w/ the principal was pretty good, and i felt very comfortable.  i left feeling good about this place.  the offer was lower than my first, but they offer overtime in addition to salary, which would put me above the $line of my first offer (based on a 40hr work week, i will obviously be working overtime).  they were also very open to me taking time off for my first child’s birth in november (!!!) as well as working from home a few days a week.

i think overall that my #1 choice still holds the trump card.  the work is more progressive and technologically driven.  they’re looking a lot into how people use the building, incorporating cutting edge technology in ambient environments, and pushing sustainability as far as possible.  i think what is holding me up is having a more definite idea of their work product and what my role will be.  i also felt a little tense during our first interview, so i want to be sure that i get along well w/ the team.  i called up and set up another interview for tomorrow.  the principal i spoke to was very nice and accomodating.

i also forgot that i have another 2nd interview next week w/ a 3rd firm.  i’ve already written them off as a #3, but still, the more offers on the table the better.  i rescheduled w/ them for tomorrow as well.  hopefully by the end of this week i’ll have made my decision about where i’ll be working – and then i will hold off until graduation before splurging on my self-congratulatory present: a nintento wii!!

first job offer!

April 16, 2007 2 comments

sweet! the interview that i thought didn’t go so well apparently went well enough that they just extended me an offer! this is one of my top 2 choices, and i would be very excited to work with this firm. the work is super cool, the location is fantastic, the benefits (which i’m waiting on via email) sound great from the first description, they’re very accommodating for family time (important, as i’m going to be a daddy soon!), and the salary is in my ballpark, albeit on the lower end (still higher, though, than the average salary for recent architecture masters grad in austin).  they’ve given me room to negotiate, though, so i should be able to get pretty much what i want.  i contacted my other #1 choice, but they’re apparently unable to make any hiring decisions until august (the austin office is moving to a new location and is also dictated by the whims of the dallas office).  they told me that i was at the top of their list, but that they’re pretty much stuck at the moment.  it was a good open-ended conversation: they told me to keep them in mind if things change, and that they’d be interested if my plans change.

so essentially that leaves me w/ an interview tomorrow w/ my #2 choice (below the other 2 i just mentioned).  i was very excited w/ my initial interview, but my second interview w/ this firm got screwed over twice w/o much contact from their end, so i’ve been a bit leary of whatever may happen w/ them.  still, they seem to do good work and are expanding.  we’ll see how tomorrow goes – but the most important thing is I’M FREAKIN PSYCHED!

Categories: architecture, Austin, work

simultaneous: excited and bummed

March 28, 2007 Leave a comment

the interview that i rocked the other day is leaving me kind of bummed.  during the interview, my interviewer practically said he would be extending me an offer.  today, though, at a networking event he talked about how my timeline (taking one month off after graduation to relax and get my travels and life in order) was too far out him, and that i should keep his firm in mind if things change or if i continue looking later.  so that’s a bummer – i don’t think i should expect an offer from them so soon.  it would be disingenuous of me to not give realistic expectations of my timeline, but at the same time, i think that i could have been vague about my start date for a little bit longer.

on the other hand, i had 3 interviews since friday, another one tomorrow, and i’m trying to get 2 more in the pipeline.  of my 2 interviews yesterday, i really liked one of them, and my interview today i felt was a smashing success.  i think that i might honestly prefer today’s firm out of all the ones i’ve interviewed w/ so far.  really good vibe from the principal, and my sustainable design focus is serving me very, very well.  my interview tomorrow seems exciting as well – i have a friend who works there and has talked it up.  they are a small satellite office looking to grow, and the firm itself is international and 6000 people strong.   let’s hope for good things tomorrow.

Spanning Sync and Scrybe

March 9, 2007 1 comment

some time ago i posted about how it would be great to have a desktop client that syncs w/ google calendar. that product is now available in public beta (though i’ve been testing it out since private beta – yay me) in the form of Spanning Sync. i’ve installed numerous beta builds of the spanning sync client as it’s fixed bugs and become more robust. i absolutely love it. Spanning Sync very simply does automatic bi-directional syncs of iCal on the Mac with google calendar. no buttons to press. what you create in iCal shows up in google calendar and vice-versa. Spanning Sync is now up to its 16th beta build, and supposedly the next version will be the final version ready for mass consumption. since i started using Spanning Sync, i’ve pretty much spent most of my calendaring time in iCal, and only opened up google calendar when i wasn’t on my own computer.

i also just received my invitation the other day to join Scrybe, another new online calendaring app. it has a great hype video (on their homepage, take a watch) and has been written up in loads of places. i’ve been eager to try it out. it’s big deal is how it shows your events in context – basically you look at the month view, but you generally only see events. well, w/ Scrybe, you can click on that day’s events and it gets larger so that you can see all of the times. all of the other day boxes in the month view shrink to accomodate this. there are to-do lists, multiple color coded calendars, and a few more goodies. i’ve actually been having a hard time w/ Scrybe – i think it could use a really good designer. you need that contextual view w/in Scrybe b/c it’s near impossible to understand anything going on in the month view – all of the events seem to bleed together. google calendar and iCal have this view down much better. if you combined the month view from gCal and iCal w/ Scrybe, then perhaps you’d have something. a really cool feature of Scrybe, though, is its printing options: you can select to print up your events and to do lists on a sheet of paper, and then it tells you how to fold it up so that it fits in your pocket. that’s great if you don’t have a PDA or blackberry or your computer around.

overall, i think i’m pretty happy w/ Spanning Sync and see no reason to switch to a different platform.  it would be great, though, if iCal or gCal (or both) took a hint from some of Scrybe’s feature set.

Categories: tech, web, work

catch some pzizz

February 13, 2007 Leave a comment

a new study from Harvard shows quite a definitive link between naps and lowered death rate. they’re not sure the link yet, but they believe it’s through the lowering of stress that their study group had death rates 2/3 lower than those of a control group (those that don’t take naps). current recommendations are that if you can take a midday nap, do so, w/ their guidelines describing at least 3x weekly naps of 30 min or so.

right on! i completely agree – i’ve been taking midday naps w/ a relative consistency since this past September, and i love it. i feel refreshed mentally and physically, w/ more energy for getting back to work than what a cup of coffee does for me (though i’m not against both…). it seems to be fairly common knowledge, or sense, that naps make you feel better and think and act better, but for some reason it’s unacceptable in western capitalist society (even the AP article describes would-be nappers as “office slackers”).  mediterranean society has the right idea w/ siestas. i don’t know how, but i’m going to try to somehow maintain a 20 minute daily midday nap when i start working, several times a week at the least.

i started napping successfully when i got hold of this software called pzizz. they sell hardware (basically a portable media player) that only produces their ‘nap’ songs, but you can also download it as i’ve done. pzizz isn’t just nature or ambient sounds – it combines soothing suggestive therapy as well. all of that is well and good, but the great thing about pzizz is that it generates the nap each time you listen to it, so that you can’t get used to a certain audio pattern. w/ a static song, it would be very easy to get used to the sounds and it wouldn’t be long before it would become ineffective as a sleeping aid. pzizz makes a different song every time, all ambient and soothing. i generally take a nap 2-3 times a week and very, very rarely have any trouble falling asleep, resting, and waking in the 20 min time frame. you can also specify the time of your nap, the volume of the voice, and the volume of the music. there is also a separate ‘sleep’ setting if you don’t want a nap. you can also export the naps as mp4s for audio playback on a portable media player, such as ipod – which is what i normally do.

the only issue that i have when taking a nap is blocking out noise. i normally nap in the library or my home office, where noise is kept to a minimum, but it really helps to have good headphones that will focus your attention on what you’re listening to. i feel this way about any time of music i’m listening to, but it obviously is more important if you’re trying to rest. i use shure headphones, which use ‘noise cancellation technology’ – basically the speakers/ear buds have built in ear plugs. they’re great in that regard – i actually keep my volume setting as low as it can go on my ipod when using these headphones. the sound quality is also very good (i’m using the lowest quality of shure headphones – quality is apparently incredible when you move into the $500 range).

so, if you want to nap, i highly recommend pzizz. if you don’t want to shell out money for it (i grabbed a free copy through a promotion), grab a pair of headphones or ear plugs, and take a nap anyway – it’ll make you feel better and you’ll live forever.

Categories: health, work

why i’m done w/ ms office

February 11, 2007 2 comments

an article just came out out in today’s sunday NYTimes describing the evolution of online word processors.  it’s something i’ve followed for a while already, and i jumped ship to writely sometime last year before it was acquired by google.  i used writely, now google documents, for taking notes in class as well as for writing short papers.  i still use it for those types of documents.  then came google spreadsheets, which are extremely convenient for most of the excel type work that i do.  the ability to share these documents and collborate on them w/ other people is killer – i generally don’t edit these documents simultaneously w/ other people, but it is much cleaner than sending docs back and forth (it’s inevitable that somebody at some point forgets to email the most recent version, plus the irritation of having to find it somewhere in an email sent however long ago).

i haven’t opened any office application in some time, w/ the exception of opening up a professor’s syllabus in order to convert it to pdf.  i certainly will have to use powerpoint soon, so that might be the clincher.  google doesn’t have a powerpoint app, though indications are that it should be unveiled shortly.  there are plenty of other online office editors, such as zoho (which recently teamed up w/ omnidrive).  even though i have an omnidrive account (i am constantly irritated by their insistance that a mac client is coming but never actually producing it) and know that zoho has apparently better offerings than google, i’m kind of married to google (gmail, calendar, docs & spreadsheets) and don’t mind waiting for google to upgrade their products.  i don’t have need at the moment for anything more serious than what they have, but will welcome the better versions when they arrive.

even when i might have need for something a little more serious than google docs & spreadsheets, i can always use OpenOffice, a completely free alternative to MS Office.  it’s quite good, and unless you have some serious lifting to do w/ your spreadsheets, OpenOffice is a really good alternative.  it comes w/ word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation applications.

so w/ all of that in mind, is there any reason that i, as a student or small business, should buy MS Office for hundreds of dollars?  actually, as a student at UT i can get it for $5, but regardless…  i can’t really see the upside.  i’ll stick to the burgeoning web applications.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/11/business/yourmoney/11proto.html?_r=1&ref=business&oref=slogin

Categories: school, tech, work