Jun 012005

(All photos for this are posted here)

On Friday of our Central Coast vacation we went to explore Poly Canyon. Poly Canyon is a nice outdoor area behind the California Polytechnic State University campus in San Luis Obispo. We walked up the side of a hill to check out the landscape. It was quite pretty, as the yucca were blooming. Have to watch for poison oak though, the stuff is everywhere.

Besides being a nice nature walk the canyon also holds a number of architectural projects from the school. These range in age from the late 60’s to just last year, and in scope from small tests to full dwellings. I had to check them all out. Above you can see the bridge at the start of the poly projects, a new tensile structure, and a deck-like cantilever structure that is about 20 years old.

Above is the standard geodesic dome, a fully functional washroom made with earth (earthcrete?), the underground house (which looks a hell of a lot like a 60’s idea of what a martian’s house would look like), and the stick house (which is starting to crumble).

What surprised me the most about the Poly Canyon projects was the scope of some of them. Above you can see the Bridge House. Peering in the windows one could see that it was fully furnished and operational at some point. Roaming partiers had done some damage to the inside and the building was now locked up. But it is still a great looking building – I’d live in it! I’m not sure what the gear on the roof is – weather station, network stuff?

Above is a cement pavilion, a strange tri-arch structure made with straw and mud, and a brand new (2004) observatory platform.

The second project that really amazed me was the shell house. Above you can see the front side of the house in the first photo, the edge of the house in the second, and the back of the house in the third. The house was designed and landscaped quite well. It looked great, even though time and partiers had taken a toll. The house has a rounded triangular roof that opens up the three ends of the house. Even though the roof covers the front and center of the house, the house has windows behind it. The design feels very private, but open and light at the same time.

The first photo is looking inside the house at the center, the second is looking along the center of the front of the house, and the third is looking down from the upstairs loft. The first photo shows the kitchen end of the center piece of the house, to the left is the living area of the center piece which had some built in shelves and seats. The other side of the center area was shelving units, a closet, and a full bathroom. At the back of the house I found a abstract shaped cement lattice that curled up above the center piece of the house. I couldn’t resist, so I climbed up it. To my amazement, the top was a loft – just enough space for a bed. I loved it, the house was so very different from a standard layout, but felt familiar. All the characteristics of a great design.

The first photo is the greenhouse, the second photo is the inside of the greenhouse through a glass block, and the third photo is the modular house. The greenhouse was an interesting building, the chimneys had scoops that swiveled in the wind. The modular house looked like another interesting project, but there was a sign up saying that it was a private residence now. Lucky!

I’m a bit of a architecture nerd, so it goes without saying that the whole thing is fascinating to me. But I think even the average person would also find it to be a really interesting place to explore. I highly recommend the $4 parking fee on campus to go for a walk and check it out.

May 292005

(All photos for this are posted here)

Friday, May 13th. Anna and I went to see John Prine at Spreckels Theatre. I wasn’t very familiar with his music, but Anna convinced me I would like him. She wasn’t wrong. John Prine has a Dylan-esque voice. In other words, not the best in the world. But it perfectly fits his great story-style of song writing. I really enjoyed the concert.

I also really enjoyed the venue. Spreckels is an amazing location. The old offices wrap around a very grand old theatre. The offices themselves are quite cool. Glass doors, tiny hexagon tile hallways, original bathrooms, and huge windows that actually open. The offices could easily pass the set test for a film noir/detective movie. Curiously, a lot of these great offices seem to be vacant. I wonder why there was so much prime office space left unused. My only guess is that they are less desirable since the building has no central air. But with a almost steady breeze from the bay, I think it would be just fine to work here. I wish I could get away from the AC in my office. Makes one tempted to set up shop, the building and location are quite amazing.

The theatre is definitely the star of the building. The decor is very extravagant and has some great plaster work. The paintings aren’t fantastic, but their scope and setting set them apart. I am very impressed this has survived in downtown San Diego, where everything seems to be torn down to make way for condos. If you ever get a chance to see a show here, do not pass it up.

Lots of links here for info on J Spreckels. A brief bio from here:

In the first six years of the new century, San Diego would recover the population it lost in the crash of 1889. John D. Spreckels, the sugar heir who had invested heavily in San Diego, would remain a San Francisco resident during those years, and pour millions of the Spreckels family money into a city he would dominate, sometimes in absentia, for the next two decades. Spreckels owned the streetcar system, two of the town’s three newspapers (The San Diego Union and the Evening Tribune), most of Coronado and North Island and the landmark Hotel del Coronado, which had been built at a cost of more than $1 million in 1888 and which Spreckels had taken over when its builder had been unable to repay a loan of $100,000.

Interesting how boom and bust San Diego has been and continues to be.

May 022005

I need to get off my ass and post some photos of the Chicano Park 35 years celebration. There we talked to some guys that told us about the TJ bullfight season opener, featuring a young, but very famous Spanish matador. It sounded interesting, and the event came up in separate conversation later. Anna had seen some in Spain, but I had never been to one. Fast forward to Sunday, and we are on the trolley headed to TJ to watch the bullfight. I’ll post more about it when I put the pictures up.

Moss Graffiti

I love sites like this. It has several pages of great photographs of abandoned buildings in Japan. An offshoot of infiltration maybe?

Feb 242005

Looking at my visited countries map:

It would seem I need to get my ass off this continent for my next travels. However with Chicago, NYC, and Williams Lake lined up, I don’t see that happening soon.

I am going to spend a week or two in Williams Lake with family, and hopefully have enough time to head up to my family’s cabin on Francois Lake. In the 40’s and 50’s my grandfather ran a hunting & fishing lodge, catering mostly to wealthy americans (interestingly enough, my other grandparents also depended on american tourists – they ran a cafe/truck stop/tackle shop). It was not an easy or consistent way to make a living. My grandfather eventually joined the forest service and they moved to the coast. He loved the cabin and wanted to retire there. Sadly a stroke and MS crippled his body, he was unable to make it up to the cabin in the later years of his life.

I grew up living not far from the cabin, so we tried to spend a few weeks of the year there. The community that existed around the lake when my father was a boy had long since vanished. The lake now is mostly german vacation homes and some ranches. But there are a few full-timers hanging on. I still love the cabin. The wilds and rotten buildings were the perfect place for a kid, and I was fascinated by the tiny traces of history I would find. Islands, old signs, papers, and bits of life were treasures waiting to be found. Considering my fascination, it is surprising I didn’t go into archeology or join the forrest service. Funny how things work out.

I posted some older photos of the cabin here.

Sep 082004

Reno. I spent a lot of time in Reno this last trip to Burning Man. Pete’s flight was delayed about 11 hours, so Anna and I had a lot of time to wander around the place.

– Casinos. Sure you can get a hot dog and a beer for $1.50, but your hotel (El Dorado, supposedly 3.5 stars) gives you a crappy smoking room instead of your pre-paid non smoking room.
– Driving in Reno sucks. It is always under construction (same section of highway has been messed up for the past 3 years), missing or erroneous signs, and the drivers think a turn signal means accelerate into my blind spot.

Its not all bad though. We went to the “#1 voted Basque Restaurant in Nevada”. How hard is that? We were suspicious, but just then walked by 2 more Basque restaurants. It was an interesting place. Everything is served family style on a big table, you eat with other people. We got there and started to chat up the locals. It was a great time. My neighbor offered me some sweet bread in wine sauce (sweet bread = thymus glands), which I liked. I was feeling adventurous, so I ordered the tripe.

Well, I ate a bit of it. It tasted good, the texture was ok (sort of spongy), but I could not handle the smell. It still had a very strong ‘internal workings’ aroma that I couldn’t get over. There was plenty of other great food to fill me up though.

We watched Hero while waiting for Pete at the local meglo-plex. I liked it. It is the same sort of style as Crouching Tiger (which I also liked), but the visuals in Hero are quite amazing.


Wow, check this out: Police in Paris have discovered a fully equipped cinema-cum-restaurant in a large and previously uncharted cavern underneath the capital’s chic 16th arrondissement.

It won’t be long now… Poor credit history can doom job offers

“The basic story is that San Diego has become a thoroughly corrupt community in which the power players cut the deals, you don’t ask any questions, and everybody gets what they want” More San Diego fun, Enron-by-the-Sea style.

This is a really great read: Fear Itself – Learning to live in the age of terrorism.

Jun 222004

A great story from NPR and Slate; First Into Libya. A group of 16 American tourists, the first to tour Libya in a long time. They did a good job on the story, it seems like an amazing place.

Our main goal was to create a voice to prove that San Diego was not a cultural void-or maybe that it was a void but that with our combined goodwill and heart we could make it something bigger and better. Whether that happened or not remains to be seen. SD Fahrenheit is dead. Now we get to enjoy even more of the plastic surgery ads in sdreader.