Archive for the ‘Humanity is a virus’ Category

 

on the last post, I mentioned that today, I had a building walk-through in review for an RFP that is upcoming.  Keep in mind that I do not often respond to Requests for Proposals, which are often sent out in shotgun fashion to any architect that shows up in the first 20, or 30, or 40 Google search results.  The last couple that came in through the mojo wire I read and passed, and the last one I started considering, I abandoned when the structural engineer I called had already heard (and passed) on two other architects who had already called him.  So really, the only reason I went further on this one is that it’s in my neighborhood and Young Zombie attended a preschool that was in the building previously.  Also, it’s a progressive Episcopalian church, so I figured they wouldn’t set me on fire.

One of the things about my practice is that I get very little work from marketing kind of avenues; most of my projects come from referrals or repeat clients.  In fact, I have one client that I have designed a residence for three times (one small colonial house on the East Side, an extensive and exotic rooftop penthouse condo downtown, and a suburban estate, FWIW).

I once read that Frank Lloyd Wright sometimes said he was never the committee choice, he was usually too risky and committees are notoriously risk-averse.

So I gathered with six other groups in this complex of buildings to review the existing.  In no particular order, and with an approximate employee number:  ZDG (100); UWRS (40); Groth (30); MSI (150); PRA (75); QA (10); and me.  It is a relatively small community in the city, and I had met several of the professionals there and knew all of the companies by reputation (and interviewed at most of them at one time or another!).  And, in a turn that I fully expected, my former partner also turned up.  Am I a bad zombie for having kind of perverse satisfaction in seeing her on crutches due to a fall from her bike?

The big difference between my practice and all of theirs is that they have a marketing plan and spend some amount of money and effort on pursuing these type of cattle-call long shot proposals.  I spend my time and effort into my work and design, and my reputation is based on that, not on glad-handing.  Oh, I am perfectly congenial and can handle a professional gathering with complete equanimity, and I made small talk as appropriate and made other professional small talk during the 3 hours or so we were on site.

And I have made contact with other professionals to team up with on the project:  a structural engineer, HVAC engineer, Plumbing engineer, and Electrical engineer.  Ostensibly, the proposals are due on 9/27, which is no problem at all, at least conceptually.

But the gathering and walk through went pretty much as I expected.  The building is an older worship building, with a couple of additions and remodeling over time.  The staff involved in the building were a bit negative on it, but having been through these rodeos many times, the building’s basic elements are predominantly intact and there is nothing that amounts to a deal breaker that makes any part of the building unusable.  If anything, their biggest problem is that there is far more space than they need, and it should be reduced or sourced out to tenants.  Actually, it’s a very handsome building and I would be gratified to help the parish move into a new era and fresh life for the structure.

aerial

But that’s really neither here nor there.  As I walked home – it was a truly gorgeous fall day in Milwaukee, and like I said I live in the neighborhood, I live 6 blocks away- I thought further about the walk-through and the other people who participated.  And I started to consider Wright’s words; what is the value of the work I will need to do to compile a responsive proposal?  When there are bigger name heavy hitters in the mix?  Does it matter that I am a neighbor?  (probably not).  By the time I got home, I was ready to skip it altogether, but there was a message from the mechanical engineer….

So here’s one where I am not hoping for help from you helpful 3 or 4 faithful readers.  Mind you, I won’t mind feedback or opinions, but you lot are an opinionated bunch of fuckers. 

Because I have decided, for any number of reasons, to follow this one through.  I’ll go against these bigger more corporate firms who have ‘name recognition’ and ‘connections’.  I won’t say ‘more established’, because one of the attendees was my former partner whose firm I was a founding partner of.  Yes, I ended that sentence with a preposition here’s your fucking refund.

But I will go in because this is a step up and forward, and I can use it.  Plus, I need these bigger firms to KNOW WHO I AM.  Last night, my concert going buddy asked me if I wasn’t well known by the quality of my work and I had to give him the knowledge that that is hardly ever considered in consideration for hiring of architects.

So I am in.  I am drafting, in my mind, the rudiments of the proposal and I am working out some ways of throwing shade in a backhanded way at the larger firms (for instance, with my ex-partner in the mix, my resume instantly changed to say I was a Founding Partner in Charge of Design at the firm she took control of).  My references will be stellar, because they are all personal and direct connections with people of high stature in the community.  My track list of similar projects will be impressive, but won’t be the most impressive; however based on the walk through, I can directly relate parts of them to portions of the building they would like to address; and a Marketing Person in one of these firms will not be able to see that.  I did that on site in one instance, asking a question of the rector about the character of window leaks because I had experienced similar problems with a steel lintel that leaked into the windows in a particular way.

I am in.  I would, indeed, like to expand my practice.  I think I have learned some good and bad things in my history, and think I could grow it better and be a much better leader and administrator going forward.  And even if that isn’t in the cards, being a believable competitor among the Big Boys of the local community will be worthwhile in itself; I have proven myself from a practical standpoint as well as having received several design awards.

I second guessed myself on this, and then reconsidered, then shot it down again and then talked myself back into it.  Yes, I have a very active internal life, and AT LEAST a dozen voices that will chime in to argue at a moment’s notice.  But, for now, I AM IN.

SHUT UP VOICE  # 5.

 

so, tonight we had a party.  It’s one we do every year, really ever since we bought a house.  It’s a combination house warming/anniversary party, and friends and family always get invited.  We drink and talk smart, eat food that would cause our many doctors to look at us with the hairy eyeball, and tire the dog right the fuck out.

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It is often the only time we see many of these folks, and we all have a grand old time.  But the friends become scarce and family starts to fade.  Mortality takes its toll, and where once we would party like college students, now we are old people.  Hell, even most of our kids have aged out, and now don’t really want to spend a night with the parent’s old clueless friends.

Oh!  Hey!  I have to mention the kewl gift I got from one of my bestest friends.  This takes a bit of backstory; we got to be friends while playing league darts for a local dive bar (steel tips, not those namby-pamby machine darts) and competitive drinking.  At one point, his father wanted to get a computer, and he asked me if I could help set up the old man, which of course I was happy to do.  Well, his dad and I hit it off, and in addition to becoming his IT department, also became good friends.  Sadly, a few years back R’s dad had to enter a nursing home and then passed, leaving R with a shitload of debris and belongings.  And amongst those, was a certain item.

R knew that his dad meant it for something, since it was published well before we ever did the Macintosh stuff together, and it must have took work to track down.

R knew that his father would love that I now have it, R was happy that I would have it, and I am tickled fucking pink to have it.  It is a pristine copy of the inaugural, number one issue of Macworld, from 1984:

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Now, here’s the thing about this that makes it something I will put in a safe place and treasure:

I am not entirely sure about R’s future, and I fear that it may not be long before this is what I have to remember him by.

When I first knew him, he just was an ebullient drinker.  But as time went by, he lost several jobs because he would drink at lunchtime and become inconsistent and unreliable.  Eventually he became a cab driver (and a good one!  at one year’s Milwaukee Film Festival, there was a short film about him!)  and all the while, we remained good good friends.

But at the same time, other friends were fading and ghosting, not wanting to be seen as ‘enablers’.  While I was seeing R being abandoned and becoming more isolated; I have since learned that is often the result.

R eventually ended up in Hazelden, and worked to become sober for quite a long time.  But again, as is often the case, the addictions snuck back in; yes, addictions both smoking AND drinking; the classics!

R has been off and on, sober or sober-ish, and then backsliding.  Tonight, he was abjectly apologetic that he was too drunk to visit me in the hospital on my Events (which I assured him I never held against him and instantly accepted his apology, trying to assuage his feeling of guilt).

But things got worse.  He had a doctor diagnose him with cirrhosis of the liver (which may have been erroneous, but nonetheless alarming) and had throat cancer discovered.

Thankfully, we once had a President and government that actually gives two squeaky shits about the normal fucking people, and expanded the range of health care coverage; R was able to obtain health insurance on the ACA markets, and went to the doctors for the first time in years.  Not only the alarming things up above, but started getting his diabetes under treatment. Thanks Obama (not sarcastically) and fuck you Republicans (in complete earnestness).

he had the throat cancer successfully treated and removed, hurting like a motherfuck.

R and I are not only good friends, but also concert buddies of the first order.  I recently sent him a text, remarking on the upcoming concert schedule, that I had seen all that I cared, and nothing was coming up.  Recently, we saw the Outlaw Music Festival at Summerfest, Jason Isbell at the BMO Amphitheater, and the incomparable Figgs at the tiniest East Side bar, Circle A.

So I spent the late evening, dialing up our favorite songs to give him hope and courage; Jason Isbell, Trapper Schoepp, Okkervill River, Sally Timms, Trampled by Turtles, Mountain Goats, Gaslight Anthem….basically anything visceral and affirming, that might give him the feeling that there is value in staying around.  We talked late into the night, and I sent him off to spend the night with his fuzz bucket dogs and aggressive greenwing macaw named Biko and telling him he could be strong enough to get through.

Rory is the kind of guy that everybody loves.  He admitted tonight, that his happy-go-lucky life of the party persona is a front – it kind of had to be, I think – he was not only an instant lover of our first dog Mieshka, he also came up with a hilarious drunken backstory at at the first party we had her, identifying her as a ‘Kalaka’ a fictitious Russian attack breed.  Check it; this dog is only lethal if you are allergic to dog licking;

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But….yeah.  I don’t know how this ends, except like that line from the Mountain Goats song “this scene ends badly, as you might imagine….”

But it is a one time I wish I wasn’t joking about this zombie thing, so I could bring R back in the worst case.  Because he would, undoubtedly, be an AWESOME zombie.

Unplugged

Posted: July 30, 2019 in Body Count, Humanity is a virus, Shovels

When MTV still did meaningful music, there were two or three times they made a difference.  One, oof course, was the Nirvana unplugged broadcast, and then there were two times they had REM do it.

And here you go (mikey should love this one) featuring the goddess Patti Smith:

 

Because I had the weirdest day in my office today, in that I came in and the internet connectivity was wonky.  Now, this is not that weird and a bit of rebooting of the hardware usually makes it stop.  But this time it didn’t

I spent much time on the phone with actual humans, and we tried several things.  Of course, the service provider would not do anything past their machines, which seemed to be functional.  So I reworked my routers, and reset all my settings, swapped out my routers, and nothing worked.  In the meantime, I was using my phone as hotspot.

So in a final call, I was hoping for a schedule of a technician, and the phone tech managed to ask me about which piece of hardware I was plugged into.  And here was the array of shit they had installed and left me plugged into:

The big tall thing is my Apple router, and the other four things are….something else.  I brought them all in for internet and phone, and the cost is like 1/4 of what AT&T was charging me.  But they had me plugging my router into the tall thing with blue lights, and that’s where we we falling down.  So after talking with the tech, she asked me if I was plugged into the short thing, and I said no, they told me to plug into the tall thing.  So when I plugged into the short thing, everything turned green.

Here’s the weird thing.  The white box on the left is a wireless router that I apparently never used.  Never asked for.  but it was wired in.

So, the upshot is that the guys wiring this shit didn’t know what they were doing, I don’t know what the fuck I am doing, and somehow it’s working now.

John Oliver, who is being a heavyweight offsetting that fucker Maher, had a great episode on the ERA.

As he does, on everything he does.  But his show reminded me of a younger zombie.

A zombie who joined a couple of buses of people., going to DC (my first time!) to attend a rally in support of a final push to ratify the fucking ERA.  Because, of course, America!  where equal rights has always been a controversial idea.  It did seem, at the time, that a few loud voices would help push it over the finish line, and holy hell, how optimistic was I?  All of it, Katie.

Kind of distressingly, a reporter from a Madison paper stopped and interviewed me while we sat on the Mall.  Ignored, of course, my wife and all the other women around, to do a ‘fish out of water’ curiosity rocks piece about an actual MAN that supported the ERA.  Because, fucking patriarchy.  FWIW, even my parents, who had no knowledge of our participation, noticed the interview, which was funny as hell.

One of the things Oliver brought back to cognition was the existence of ambulatory horrorshow Phyllis Schlafly.  I understand if you wanted to never think about her ever again, I know I didn’t.  But Oliver detailed the intensity of her hate for her gender and how ardently she worked to make sure they did not have legal protection for their rights.  Yes, she is one of the most horrible people that had ever existed.

We are one state away from ratifying the ERA.

Ratified-States-Map-Nevada

Illinois ratified the ERA last year, which was the 37th state.

Phyllis is a loon, who is a tool of the patriarchy.  She lied.  She once thanked her husband for allowing her to make a speech.   She lacquered her hair.  I really did not like her, and I am not happy that I still have to think about her.  Tolkien would have left her out of Lord Of The Rings as too evil to be believable.  I have read several alternative novels about hell, and  none of the levels seem to suit her perfidy.

I don’t like her, is the feeling I am trying to get across here.

But most of all, let’s think about this.  I went on this demonstration  THIRTY FUCKING YEARS AGO.  This is a terrible statement on our country’s lying about our dedication to equal rights.  Yeah, like all those years of enslavement, rape and brutalization of brown people, and the way we are now putting slightly brown children in cages is not able to demonstrate that we have never, not really, grown beyond it.

Well, I started out being kind of cheered by John’s show, and now I think I will start drinking.  Anyways, here is his show….

 

 

well, hey.  You remember the other day, when I said Wisconsin was closed?  Well, we took a WHOLE GODDAM TWO DAYS OFF, not so much from the snow but from the 20 below temperatures right after.  But since then, we have had TWO fucking deep snowfalls, not to mention a couple of warm days in-between, which allowed some of the snow to melt, then get piled up behind the snow that did not melt, and then it all froze again.  Which then got covered by new snowfall, providing slip-n-fall hidden traps designed to kill Wisconsinites.

or, as the Eskimo say, kaniktshaq moritlkatsio atsuniartoq.  strictly translated, it says “Observe the snow. It fornicates.”  But the intent is clear:  LOOK AT ALL THE FUCKING SNOW.

This is the toughest snow year in a long time.  When I moved to Milwaukee, we had a snow year that had heroic piles of snow along side roads, and the intersections, you had to lean out and peer along to see if cars were coming.  And that was when I wasn’t even a property owner, where now I have to shovel that shit my own bad self (I keep an eye on the smartwatch, making sure I don’t over do it.  You know, if you read the past).

But this is what we do in Wisconsin.  We are all shoveling today, and tomorrow we will just go to work like normal.  Because we have boots and brandy.

So, now I got that off my chest, I have to get heavy.  Me, very heavy.

Some might expect that I might be talking about Ryan Adams, and I feel tough enough about that, but it’s not.  But it is related, in that his early work was released through an awesome label, Bloodshot Records in Chicago – they release Langford and Mekons content, and that should make them cool enough.

What I found out tonight is that the life partner of one of the founders of the label, was abusive and grabby toward one of the label’s artists.

This is appalling.

I friended this guy on Facebook, and have been a fan of his music.  I unfriended him tonight, as soon as I heard.

This is so sickening.  Every woman I know has these stories.  I start to look back and wonder, “when did I do something a woman did not appreciate and still hates me for?  And I don’t know when.  I feel queasy when I think it might have happened.  When I have been an employer, I never treated my employees in any other way, but maybe in my personal life….it makes me feel bad for anyone I might have.

FOR FUCKS SAKE, MEN, THIS IS NOT THAT HARD.  when they say no, they are not kidding.  back the fuck off, and if the deal changes, they will come back to you.  Being asked to call a cab is a pretty good indicator, don’t be a fucking rapist dick.

As has once been said, men are afraid that women will laugh at them.  Women are afraid that men will kill them.

The difference in power is what women say when they rail against the patriarchy, and the change is what men want to resist, because the status quo is a fucking good deal for them.

At this point, I don’t know what to say.  I am heartened that the Me Too movement is encouraging women (and men, let’s not forget the bravery of people like Terry Crews) to come forward even when the perpetrators are not the richest, most famous people.  The idea that this massive outpouring of stories of abuse and sexism need to stop being treated as some fakery by a small number of people, but that this is endemic, it exists everywhere.

I am very disheartened to find that people in the music industry I respect, have been embroiled in this.  I am particularly chagrined to find that a Musician I liked, is one of the perpetrators.

I think the only alternative is to continue and deepen the Me Too movement, in that people who feel that they have been abused in any way, come forward.  In a way, certainly that allows the accused (if named) to defend themselves or provide the alternative memory.

But this still taints me for musicians I liked.  And I hate them for that.

Related videos:

I recognize that second video is different, but as a black belt who helped teach women (and men) self defense techniques, I felt the attitude was good.

Meanwhile, guys, can you fucking just pull back a little?  Or a Lot?

 

OK, out of curiosity, I have watched the competing FYRE Festival documentaries. I was peripherally aware about the failure of this, but holy fucking shit, the complete cluelessness of a rich white guy who is able to convince people to send him money, it was like a new millennia version of a religious huckster. Oh wait, it was a more like a social media version of modern religious huckster.  Oh wait, it was like Trump decided to do a hipster music festival.
 
But seriously, what the hell did people think? Here in Milwaukee, we are home to the largest music festival in the world, over eleven days, serving more or less 100,000 people every day. When the festival ends, every year, they take a couple of weeks off and then start planning the next festival (in reality, I am pretty sure they start planning the next one during the current festival.  And since they are constantly rebuilding and improving the actual physical portions of the site every year, I figure they start planning well in advance of a year). And that is at a location that not only has dedicated facilities (including toilets!) but also the built in ability of an urban area to absorb the needed hotel rooms, traffic, parking and transit.
 
And not to mention that the festival grounds support various ethnic festivals, pretty much every weekend for the entire summer. And they all come together well, mainly because they are planned for most of a year in advance, and are based on expectation of infrastructure and support in place.
 
What I find absolutely inconceivable is that so many of the people involved, many of whom may have been admittedly very young and many of whom had no experience in planning or construction; at the same time there were others who were older and more experienced and had experience in how much effort it takes to do this kind of thing.
The Hulu version presents him as a con artist.  As a professional, I will not say I have not been burned by con artists.  But I will say that I could see early on that their plans did not make sense; I recognize that the normal thinking is that architects do no know anything about spending money, but the reality is that we have to run businesses like anyone else, and within a few years of working on many different ways of completing projects, it becomes apparent that it takes money.  It takes investment.  It takes time and it takes FUCKING EFFORT.
I often say that I have seen projects die for all kinds of reasons.  And a not uncommon one, is that the primary mover on the development team is either a scammer or he is completely clueless.
It was a minor example, but recently I was contacted by a building owner (through a reference). I actually was familiar with the building through a public improvement effort guided by the School of Architecture and Urban Planning, and the building is a small mess.  The owner said the inspectors told them they needed an architect, and I explained, patiently, that what they were trying to do required the entire building to be reviewed for current codes (which include Existing Building Codes, which can be complex).  When I sent him an estimate, he started to try to cut me down, piecemeal it, and otherwise dismiss the value of my fees.  After a couple of responses, I refused to be drawn; it was obvious he was going to dispute my bills at every step and that he wanted me to try to help him shortcut around building codes.  I have seen it before.  I cut him the fuck off.
What I wonder is why nobody else did that to this shithead?  I mean, he seems like a douchebro at best, how was it that no one saw that?
I do not pretend to some ability to magically find the real impulses behind various folks I deal with.  But I will say that after one bad example, I need see no further reason to work with them, and I have extended that to say to new clients “my insurer requires that I receive (and without saying, having the check clear) a retainer that is based on the scope, extent, and urgency of the services”  Because, you know it, your emergency based on your ignorance or idiocy does not allow me to ignore my current clients (or this current video game) unless you pay accordingly.
So how did all these people just give this guy some inconceivable amount of money, and the people working on it continue to work, when there is no amount of planning being done?  IN fact, the one guy who said the original island selected had NPO CHANCE of supporting the proposed number of attendees, and he said the only way they could support that number needed mooring a boat off shore.  Asshole said, ‘we are not doing the boat, and your services are no longer needed”.
Seriously, at that point, every professional on the project should have walked.
And the original island used to be owned by a drug lord, which was abandoned when he got arrested.  The contract for the island stipulated that the ownership of the island would not be mentioned, but the first marketing efforts prominently displayed his name.  Which voided the contract, leaving them scrambling to find another island.  With like 6 months to go.  I mean, fuck?
But I do not want to spoil too much, if you are interested.  Check them out, one on Hulu and one on Netflix.  You will be amazed at the blindness allowed by models and drugs.  Or maybe not.
OK, maybe I am just a fucking old guy, but what makes me wonder is the ability for people to ignore all the fucking warning signs.  This guy made his mark by creating a credit card that added fees to your existing credit card, for the privilege of having a credit card made out of metal.  The only surprise is this was not Trump-branded, except the Trump family doesn’t have that level of inventiveness.
Fuck.  I tried like hell to just be good at what I do.  When I started my first firm/partnership, with a woman and a Latino, we discussed whether we wanted to approach it as some kind of minority firm, but the rules said it had to be EITHER a woman, or a racial minority; and when we appealed, they just looked confused.  What did we think, forming a firm with one of each?  And none of us wanted to commit to 51% to one or the other, so the whole thing turned shitty and I bailed.  I named the damn firm, too.
So yeah, good at what I do.  I think I am.  Have won some awards.  More importantly, I have done projects that have had positive changes to local neighborhoods, and real families.
But I never cheat, I never scam, I never inflate my fees, I never blow smoke up anyone’s ass.  When I walk into a project, I always start a discussion about the difficulties and the hurdles we will see. When something goes wrong, i let the client know as soon as I can, so we can start working toward solutions.  In the case of serious changes to my fees, I do not bill until the situation is resolved.

OK, now I know why I am not rich.

Finest Worksong

Posted: November 9, 2018 in Fridge Note, Humanity is a virus, Shovels


I have been talking recently with a potential client, who owns a small, scattershot industrial building that is filled with a weird mix of tenants doing a weird mix of businesses, with a nearly incomprehensible of access and exiting that is pretty much not illuminated.

It’s not the first time I have been through the building.

NWS site

But the Owner, much as I like him personally, apparently figures I will be willing to work on the basis of a  couple of hundred bucks.  I AM NOT.

After going back and forth a bit, he keeps asking for me to do something shortsighted and cheap.  Here is my answer:

Andy-

A change of use resets the code to the requirements of the new use.  That is why they asked you for a Change of Use Analysis.  The use as furniture storage and showroom is treated differently in the code, and that’s why there is a need to review the new use in relation to the rest of the building.  Also, not having seen the history of the building, it is entirely possible that the prior use was not properly approved.  Which, of course is not your fault in any way.
You may be able to use that area as storage, although storage of furniture may also be problematic, and use as a showroom will be an entirely different aspect. Without an analysis on my part, I am unable to proffer a professional opinion on that.
I am unsure what you would need me to do, because your stated plans for the space are changing.  The building itself has gone through decades of incremental changes, that seem to have never been adequately assessed for code compliance. Conversion of a portion of the building to residential would STILL require analysis of the entire building for exiting and accessibility.
On a professional level, and with respect to my fiduciary duty to you as a client and the protection of public health and safety, not to mention in order to maintain my professional license and my liability insurance, I have an obligation to not only work on your behalf and in your best interest but to ensure that your building remains safe and occupiable and meets the standards of Milwaukee and State building codes.  In my prior experience, when clients insist on abbreviated scope of services, invariably we find that we have to do more work, most often finding ourselves performing the original scope of services, if not more, caused by trying to short cut things on the front end. The scope of services I have proposed is based on the years of experience I have in doing these kinds of things.  
After years of doing these kinds of projects, I have found that trying to shortcut, especially on the front end design and code elements invariably end up costing the Owner more money, resulting in blaming and bad blood.  
That is why I send out my proposals with an itemized estimate, so a potential client can see how my time would be broken down to various tasks.  When I look at them, I do not see any particular task that is not reasonably apportioned.
It seems to me that we may not be a good fit between client and professional.  I am not willing to provide you with a piecemeal approach to your building plans; invariably, I have found it results in more work that expands outside of the original scope of work.  
I really enjoyed meeting you and I like you on a personal basis during the brief time we met.  I also like your building a lot.  But on a professional level, I think we may not be the best fit.
Best regards and my sincere regrets.
Not sent yet.  Someone tell me that is wrong and ill-advised.
Maybe I shouldn’t watch the Walking Dead while writing these things.