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We’re all busy. And if you’re like me, your brain already has too much info bouncing around, so remembering to check a blog for new posts probably doesn’t rank very high on your list of priorities.

To make it easier for everyone to stay in touch, I’ve now enabled a subscription service for this blog (thanks Len!). Just click the link in the left column, enter your email address, and bingo. If I’ve posted anything new that day, you’ll get an email. How easy is that?


Sometimes, when trying to decide what to write, it helps to do some browsing. This story from CNN today was an inspiration. As you must have heard by now, our President is hosting a little get-together between Professor Gates (accused of breaking into his own house and later arrested for taking offense to it), and the arresting officer from the Cambridge Police. And, being a really good host, Mr. O has offered to provide the beer. Leave it to the politicians to turn it into a circus.

Seems some folks are all up in arms about which beer to serve. Obama’s favorite, Bud Light, is now a foreign-owned brand. Likewise with Red Stripe and Beck’s, preferred by Gates. Not sure what the problem is with Blue Moon, the officer’s choice, but if I let my imagination run wild I can conjure up all kinds of idiotic and politically incorrect references.

On the surface, it’s petty, contrived, and a colossal waste of heavy breathing. Looking a little deeper, it’s symptomatic of a much bigger problem . . . we Americans – independent, mighty, intelligent, and strong – have become hypersensitive to pretty much everything. The posturing, the grandstanding, the feigned indignation. We live in a culture of grievance, and in the skilled hands of lawyers and politicians, it’s been elevated to an art form.  If, by chance, you weren’t offended initially (maybe you actually had a life and missed something), there’s never a shortage of people willing to step up to the podium and turn it into headline news.

For Pete’s sake (no offense to Pete, whoever he is), what’s wrong with a couple of guys getting together over a beer to hash out a disagreement? Who cares what beer they drink? I applaud the gesture, and wish we could handle things that way more often. It ought to be a required step before any lawsuit is accepted into the court system! Think about it . . .

For now, it is what it is. Let’s have some fun with it. Imagine you’re in charge at the White House . . . what would you serve, and why?

It’s not that I’m shocked, or even surprised, really. I knew what I was getting into when I moved here (twice). But 102 degrees at 9am? That just seems wrong.

It’s going to be a warm one.

Not long ago, we lived for a few years in a smallish town in northern California, far removed from the hustle and bustle of big-city life that we had always known. It was a grand experiment, a change of scenery and lifestyle – one of those things that you don’t think too much about until you’re raising a family. We had blue skies, clean air, lakes and rivers all around us, and trees. Lots and lots of trees!

We bought a home on the edge of town. It came with an acre of land for the kids to run around, and a small creek that wound its way through the front of the property. Oh yeah, and it had trees. So many trees that we actually had to cut a few dozen of them to allow some sunlight to reach the ground. And finally, the kids could have a real treehouse.

It was scenic and serene and . . . it needed a lot of work. I imagine that most people would move into the house, carve the home improvement effort into bite-size pieces, and tackle the projects one at a time. Not us. We’d been through a home remodel before, and if we learned anything, it was that our little weekend projects tended to become half-completed eyesores.

We spent about four months renovating the place before finally moving in. Portions of the house were gutted to open up the space and allow daylight to creep in. We put in a brand new kitchen, hardwood flooring, and new carpet. We painted – everything. A handsome new woodstove graced one corner of the room. It was finally starting to look and feel like home. There were still some projects to be finished, but alas I was out of time (and out of money), and it was time to get on with our lives.

As any parent knows, the demands of kids’ activities will test even the most organized of families. With soccer, music lessons, scouts, and a host of school activities, it was hard to even think about finishing some of those projects around the house, much less find the energy to actually do them. But we still talked about the treehouse. We wandered the yard, sizing up all the different locations. We considered the size and shape of the trees, their location relative to the other playground amenities, and of course, the view potential. We talked about ladders and slides and rope swings, even a bridge to a platform in the neighboring tree. I drew some sketches, and thought about all the details, the materials I’d need. This was going to be one awesome treehouse!

I’m embarassed to admit that we never built it. At some point, I’d become so wrapped up in the idea of making this great treehouse, that I lost sight of why we were doing it. Instead of building something for the kids, I’d taken it on as a personal quest to make it bigger and better than it needed to be. The design was never quite good enough, we were busy with other things, and time gradually slipped away. I had squandered the opportunity, and denied my kids the chance to enjoy one of childhood’s great treats.

We still own the house. Another family has lived in it for about a year now. A couple of weeks ago, we were back in the area on vacation, and we took a drive through the old neighborhood. Not much had changed. We drove past the house to see if everything looked to be in order, and turned up a side street that offered a glimpse into the backyard. Peering through the trees, I suddenly felt a sickness in my stomach that I may never forget. It was as if all of the blood had drained from my body. There, in the corner of the yard, stood a treehouse. It wasn’t big. It wasn’t pretty. It didn’t have all the neat stuff. But it was there, and I imagine those kids think it’s just perfect.

If you’ve read the intro, you’ve likely gathered that I’m an architect. It’s truly a wonderful and personally rewarding way to make a living (though I confess there have been occasions when I’d have been just as happy pounding nails with my skull!) On the better days, I get to use both sides of my brain, tap dancing my way through the worlds of art and science, spirituality and technology. I’ve always known that I wanted to be an architect, and I honestly believe that I was pre-wired for the job. As a kid, I’d watch the houses in my neighborhood being built, and I’d sneak onto jobsites to collect bits of scrap to take home and build with. I enjoyed drawing, and to this day I find it hard to describe things to people without doing a sketch. I can look at virtually any building – any object, for that matter – and visualize how the pieces go together to make it work. Luckily for me, it’s mostly intuitive . . . I see it, I get it.

On the other hand, there are some things that I just can’t seem to get a handle on, no matter how hard I try. One of those things: music . . .

I love music. I feel music. It’s been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I have a fundamental appreciation for many genres, classical to rock, jazz to blues. I can hear how it comes together, I can sense the layering of the composition, the moods and the inflections. But try as I may, I have failed miserably at understanding basic music theory. All those lines and dots on the page make me dizzy. And don’t even talk to me about roots and chords and progressions.

I’m at a loss to explain it. At its core, isn’t music merely an artistic expression of a scientific language? Simple math, right? These are things that I tend to do well with, but it’s difficult for me to study at a piece of sheet music and have any idea what I’m looking at. If I break it down to individual notes, one at a time, I’ll figure out the first line sometime next week. Is it really that hard? Or am I missing some grey matter? I’ve even tried approaching it as if it were a foreign language, but at this point I’m fairly convinced that I could become fluent in Chinese or Arabic, maybe both, in a fraction of the time. Other people seem to pick it up with nary a hint of the torment that I’ve gone through. I’ve watched my own kids learn it. It’s all very humbling.

Maybe this is the “old dog, new tricks” phenomenon. I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that when it comes to music, I’m still, and may forever be, just a spectator.

I’ve pondered the idea of creating a blog for some time now, but until recently, I’d never been quite sure from which angle to approach it. On a professional level, the are certainly a multitude of topics that pique my interest, whether it be sustainability and the green building movement, commentaries on design, or cheering for the “New Urbanism” concepts of livable, walkable communities that value people over automobiles. All are worthy topics, but perhaps with a limited audience (are you still with me?). Besides, there are any number of blogs already out there that tackle these subjects admirably.

Instead, I’ve come to the conclusion that the subject I’m most qualified to talk about is, well . . . me. (pauses to allow everyone time to groan) Actually, it would be more to the point to describe the subject matter as a diverse collection of personal reflections and observations from my own life that I suspect can be shared on some level by many of you. It’s clear to me that life is a never-ending process of discovery. Each day brings new insights, new lessons, and we’ve all got something to share. Often times, I’ve found that my quest for deeper understanding only leads to more questions. It’s life’s great paradox, the more we discover – about the world around us, about ourselves – the more we realize how much we still don’t know.

It’s anybody’s guess as to where the conversations here may lead, and I’ll make little effort to restrain it. To the contrary, it is my hope that this blog can take on a life of its own, and that my readers (somebody, anybody?) will contribute their own insights, thoughts and energy to keep things interesting. So please, don’t be shy. We can learn a lot from each other, and maybe between us, we can figure out this thing called life. Welcome aboard.