piatti del giorno 80

Thu 19 Feb 2015

Ellen Ullman:

I’m upset, so I’m taking apart my computers. If I were a poet, I’d get drunk and yell at the people I love. As it is, I’m gutting my machines.

On faithful representation

Wed 21 Jan 2015

So, I watched the Microsoft HoloLens video. I’m diagnosing my relative lack of excitement as having something to do with it showing an incomplete vision.

Depicting the idea that this technology is closer than ever before1 to representing what it’s like to sculpt physical materials is a lazy trope. Sculpting virtual rockets for your kid is just not a use for this that will ever matter, even if it actually becomes possible as shown.

Why exactly are we so obsessed with faithful represention?

Another tidy analogy: in architectural design, orthographic representation is fundamental to understanding element relationships well enough to inform the judgments one needs to make to design well. It’s sufficiently fundamental that more experienced architects can often make an accurate guess as to whether someone designed entirely in digital model or have actually drawn plans, sections and elevations. (The hint for me is that there are often these curiously under-resolved areas that would have been immediately obvious on eg. an interior elevation).

And yet, these are representations that deliberately distort “reality.” There is no place you could stand or eye you could have that could actually see this view of the real building. They are amazingly useful once you learn to read them. (That reading them is a skill means, of course, that there’s lots of room for misinterpretation, which is why real and digital models are also valuable. I’m just saying they don’t stand alone any better than an orthographic does). A representation’s usefulness for providing design feedback can come as much from how ingeniously poorly it matches reality as how faithfully.

So, that’s a long way around to saying that what will knock my socks off in one of these videos is when I see some thought given to even a guess at a new distorted representations–one that we may not even yet be able to read–that will become easy.2

  1. Considering this “close” is almost comically charitable.

  2. I do recognize the arc of technology is to start by sticking a camera in the audience of a play and calling it cinema. Still, we’re emboldened-visioning here, or whatever.

A tidy little analogy between architecture school and automated test suites

Sat 10 Jan 2015

I had a professor who would turn his students’s scale models around in his hands, holding them about two inches from his nose, and very subtly wiggle various bits of the model.

Fairly often, we’d hear a snap, a piece would come off in his fingers, and–rather than apologize–our professor would shrug, say that that piece really wasn’t in service of the design idea and didn’t need to be there anyway, toss it aside, and resume his deconstructive criticism.

For the most part he was right: any piece that he can remove with a small wiggle is quite likely to be poorly attached conceptually to the overall design, and its actual physical attachment is a surprisingly accurate and understandable-to-know-nothing-kids proxy judgment for the harder conceptual one. (We did eventually start to grok the deeper idea, but mainly the short-term result was that we started gluing the hell out of things).

I was remembering this, and jumped from it to a terrible idea for ruthlessly helping people internalize what makes for a good automated test suite:

Imagine an automated testing tool that runs the entire test suite once per method, removing that method and checking if at least one test fails. If the tests still pass, the tool fails to apologize, shrugs, says it didn’t need to be there anyway, deletes the method entirely, and resumes with the next pass.

piatti del giorno 79

Mon 29 Dec 2014

Some James Golick talks you should have already seen, but you can remedy that right now if you haven’t.


piatti del giorno 78

Mon 8 Dec 2014

Hannah Arendt:

“Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it and by the same token save it from that ruin which, except for renewal, except for the coming of the new and young, would be inevitable. And education, too, is where we decide whether we love our children enough not to expel them from our world and leave them to their own devices, nor to strike from their hands their chance of undertaking something new, something unforeseen by us, but to prepare them in advance for the task of renewing a common world.”

piatti del giorno 77

Tue 19 Aug 2014

Things finally settling down to some semblance of normalcy.

piatti del giorno 76

Mon 26 May 2014

Had a great time at Polyglot 2014 on the weekend, but oof. Brain full.

piatti del giorno 75

Mon 12 May 2014

More time on compsci fundamentals and CAD programming lately, so living the dream.

Meet the new boss

Fri 28 Jun 2013

Today, I wind up eight years working as a project architect for Acton Ostry Architects. As of tomorrow, 29 June 2013, my full-time employer is The Office of Ryan McCuaig. We1 make software for architects, engineers and contractors.

The provisional motto is “Computing for making better buildings.”

Like most fields right now, building design and construction has never before had so much data available, and such an uneven distribution of skills and tools that might let us make sense of it and free our thinking for higher-order problems. Even if it were tenable now (i.e., it isn’t), is only becoming less so to waste brainpower on tedium better handled by these infernal yet stupendously amazing machines.

I’ve been an architect-in-training and then registered architect on the sharp pointy end of getting buildings built since 1999, and–along with having earned a degree in computer science–I’ve worked hard to become a skilled web, Mac/iOS and CAD plugin developer alongside that. So, I’m thinking I know a thing or two about the intersection of buildings and computers.

If you also care deeply about making buildings, know we could be doing it better and want to talk about the possibility of working with ORM, please get in touch.

I want to end with a thank-you to Mark Ostry, Russell Acton and my talented colleagues at AOA, and to my former employer Bruce Carscadden, for the opportunities, support, trust, banter, mentorship, cameraderie, and for showing me what relentlessness in pursuit of design excellence really looks like.

  1. Well, yeah, a ‘royal we.’ For the moment.