This is a great talk from Alain de Botton. It reflects an idea I’ve struggled with for many years: how to make use of and participate in the great religious ideas without subscribing to all the doctrinal mumbo-jumbo.
He insightfully shows the many virtues of religious practice, and suggests that rather than throwing out the baby with the bathwater, we should be learning from the best practices of religion: ritual, symbolism, organization, mutual support and more.
The environment is not great for finding a job, and I was pretty nervous after I graduated. But happily I found a home at Gensler in San Francisco. This is an amazing place, with a mix of architecture, urban planning, interiors, branding, strategy, graphics and more. An incredibly talented group of people, and an enlightened culture that embraces collaboration and social interaction as well as the more traditional forms of work.
I’m working on a large urban project in San Francisco, which has given me the chance to develop my Revit skills for master planning, and do a lot of the basic tasks in architecture: massing, site planning, diagramming, yield calculations, precedent studies, model making and more.
Prior to that I worked on a large project in Bangalore: concept design for a multi-use office park. Rhino, AutoCAD, and a lot of presentation development. Also working out issues around security, circulation, and site organization, and office building core and lobby design.
I’m very grateful to Gensler for the opportunity. It’s not easy, but the rate of learning is high, and the people are great.
It’s been a busy few months in the publishing business: I’ve co-written a technical book with the founder of Runtime Design Automation, Andrea Casotto. This book explains the key issues associated with managing complex sequences of programs, required for software and semiconductor development (among other disciplines).
Modern computational environments require hundreds or thousands of machines, many software licenses, and the ability to schedule jobs in the correct order across all the available resources. The goal is to complete the required tasks, and only the required tasks, in the most cost-effective manner possible.
This book illustrates and compares three approaches: scripting, makefiles, and Runtime Design Automation’s FlowTracer product.
Having spent a long time in marketing and strategy, I’ve been often frustrated by the emphasis on “spin”—making things look better than they are. It’s a temporary way to make people feel better, but it doesn’t work as a sustainable strategy for marketing and sales.
This site on Squidoo is dedicated to thinking about this issue—it also links to other business-related resources:
When we were living in England, I followed the Volvo circumnavigation race – big powerful boats doing up to 500 miles in 24 hours under sail. They visited Portsmouth, and we went down to see them and take some pictures. This boat is the Brazilian entry, who came third in the Portsmouth race, but I was supporting ABN Amro One – a European entry, but skippered by New Zealander Mike Sanderson, the ultimate winner of the race. I have infinite respect for these sailors – this is extreme sport taken to the ultimate, with a months-long race in the hottest, coldest, toughest conditions anywhere.
I’ve also put up a few pictures from the UK – Horseshoe Lake. This is one of the many gravel pits in England that have been flooded and are now used for sailing, fishing etc. We used to go to Horseshoe Lake to sail, but on this occasion I think we just pottered around and enjoyed the very tame birds that were hopping around on the bank.
Finally some pictures from San Francisco: the De Young museum in Golden Gate Park, designed by the Swiss firm of architects Herzog and de Meuron. I learned about them from an exhibition at the New Tate museum in London, where there was an extensive display that described their process, including a lot of the work they did in designing the De Young museum.
The site was down briefly – sorry! What happened was that my domain was set to renew automatically, but it didn’t. Instead of getting a message from the registration company, they just unlinked the site. Thanks, Beachcomber. Not. Anyway, it’s back up now, following a simple PayPal transaction.
Alas, my car was destroyed by a rear-ender in Los Gatos a couple of weeks ago. I think the driver was changing lane and didn’t see the line of traffic in front. The collision was strong enough to push me into four more cars, but I think mine was the only one to be a total loss. Fortunately no-one seems to have suffered any real injuries, although I had a stiff neck for a while. Apart from the loss of a car of which I was rather fond, the biggest issue is the time and cost of finding a replacement.
I’ve settled on an Acura RDX as a replacement: it’s a small SUV like thing that drives like a car, but is a bit higher and has good space and practicality. The practicality will finally allow me to tow a small boat, as well as taking lots of tools and wood etc. in its boot.
It has a voice operated control system that has trouble with my accent – I say things like “navigate to home” and it replies “air conditioning off” or “fan level six”. I just hope it’s not running Windows.
This image is from the launch of the car – mine is a pearl white – rather like my first 944 Turbo.
After a busy week we all went up to Redwood City and spent a couple of hours out on the water in a Merit 25. The boat is apparently based on the J24, but has better accomodation and is more of a cruiser. The boys enjoyed taking the helm and helping with the rigging, and of course sitting on the bow getting wet as we surfed down the waves!
It was surprisingly warm, with moderate winds and waves. Nice to be out on the water again, even if in a very tender monohull (half-cat). Two hours really only gives enough time to go out and come back – tacking out, running back – although the wind changed a bit on the way back in and we ended up close-hauled for a while and had to tack up the channel.
The affair was organized by Spinnaker Sailing – they offer Friday night sails as well as club memberships, bareboating, classes etc.
It’s great to be back in our house – even though there’s a great deal of work to be done. It was very sad saying goodbye to all our friends and family in Europe, and I am looking forward to the opportunities I will have to visit them again.
Having been in a rented house for three years I now realize meant we lived with a sense of impermanence that didn’t motivate us to really create a home. Now we’re back we seem more interested in working out what we really want in our home – not just things, but the atmosphere and style of the place.
The lesson I have learned is that home is something that must be created, invested in. It could be anywhere, and it doesn’t have to be a house you own, but perhaps it’s easier that way. The key is to treat it as a special place and plan and implement together. That way it becomes a reminder of the relationships that make up the family. In a good way (just kidding).
What a year it has been! Sadly our last in the UK for a while, but rich beyond measure. We’ll write a proper retrospective later – perhaps in time for the Chinese New Year (our excuse for a late Christmas letter!), but this time around I would like to acknowledge all the gifts of kindness and support that we have received from our family and friends, during a year that has brought more change, and more challenge than most.
We will be moving back to California during January – our house is ready, and it will be nice to be back in the place we made our own through extensive re-modelling in 2002. We will of course be leaving behind our friends and my family, but with low-cost air travel, e-mail, and cheap phone calls, we hope to stay in touch.
Our possessions are ahead of us – probably somewhere close to the Panama Canal by now. They are expected in Oakland on December 24th, and if customs clearance proceeds as expected, we should be able to start unpacking quite quickly – perhaps even in the first or second week of January.
Lots more to say – but the most important point is simple:
Thank you all for your support and friendship over the last year, and let us wish you every blessing for Christmas and the New Year!