let’s try out this update thing. testy. testy.

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PawPaw’s Dome Home

A few months ago I submitted an application to write for Apartment Therapy.  As part of the application, I had to include a sample piece that is called a ‘house call.’   I decided to do it on my grandparents’ house.  My grandfather is not long for this world, and so I thought I would post what I wrote about his unique house as a bit of a tribute to him.

When PawPaw and Grandma moved to Kansas City in the 1950s, they missed PawPaw’s native South Texas climate and didn’t like how most homes being constructed at the time looked alike.  As a structural engineer (and owner of the highly respected engineering firm in KC, Bob D Campbell & Company), PawPaw set out to remedy these concerns, while creating a showpiece of his work. PawPaw designed a steel dome covered in wood-fiber panels and foam that contains a courtyard, pool, and a (relatively) standard three bedroom house.

Floor Plan

The dome takes advantage of sun angles, allowing light in on the glazed southern side in the winter, while blocking the higher angled rays of the summer sun.  Approximately 25 percent of the home’s heating comes from the sun. Panels along the side of the dome can also be removed, and a smaller dome on the top of the main dome can be opened, to allow for stack ventilation.

The wall separating the courtyard from the living room is counter-balanced and can slide into the basement through a slit in the floor.

Kitchen with Breakfast Bar

Sitting Room

Though an engineer, PawPaw studied some architectural design in college as part of his coursework, and says that he tried to incorporate some of the concepts of creating spaces, mass and void, and detailing work that he learned in his design classes.  Though the furniture in the house has changed over time, the materials and finishes retain the mid-century modern aesthetic of the time in which it was built.

Thanks for being such an inspiration, PawPaw, both in your work and in your life!

It’s OK, Democracy is Safe

Last Tuesday I spent 13 1/2 hours in a Lutheran church fellowship hall trying to be as non-political and helpful as I could.  Even when somebody was upset about an “offensive” sign in a yard down the street (which was outside the 250 foot ‘no campaigning zone’ and most likely just a very liberal sign – I know the owner of the property).  Even when some guy was spouting off about lawyers just trying to make life more difficult for everyone through state constitution amendments , while he was voting.  Even when we finished our pledge as election workers with “so help me God” and one of my fellow workers commented that the end was the most important part.  I kept my mouth shut and just tried to keep my opinions to myself.  (If you know me, that’s just about the antithesis of my natural character.  I don’t understand how people can NOT have an opinion about something!)

The day was very long, but very satisfying.  I really enjoy doing community service type stuff.  Maybe because I was a Girl Scout for 12 years.  It was exciting to be a part of the democratic process, ensuring that all eligible citizens had equal access to voting (again, I think the Girl Scout in me was coming out).  I love systems, having a well thought out process for how something is supposed to be done, and voting in Johnson County is very much that kind of process, to all our benefit.

It was interesting spending an entire day with 5 senior citizen women and a high school student (students over 16 can work at the polls for class credit).  It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a situation where I most related to a high school student.  It also highlighted why there is such an exhaustive set of processes for election workers.  Some of these ladies would not have known what to do, and/or were a little bit too laid back for my taste.  But the process kept them in line.

It was also a bit of a trip down memory lane, as the precincts we covered are near my house and in my elementary school’s district.  I saw my old babysitter, the mother of one of my classmates, a mother who was very involved in my school, a Girl Scout leader, an old neighbour, and my aunt!  It was fun to see a bunch of people that I haven’t seen in at least 10 years (except my aunt.  It was fun to see her too, but I had seen her a couple of days ago).  What was weird was that all of the women who were working with me were longtime residents of the same area, but most of them didn’t see anyone they knew.

Oh, and not a single person I voted for won in the two precincts that our polling station covered.

Where I’m Going to be November 2nd

I signed up to be an election worker here in my county, in part because it sounded interesting, and also because it pays money and I am a bit broke. Just being honest here (and is there really such a thing as being truly altruistic?  But that is for another time).

The other night was my election worker training.  Before I went to it, I couldn’t figure out what they would be talking about for 3 hours.  The whole process looked pretty easy when I went to vote. Find the person’s name, give them a voting card, put the receipt in the envelope.  No big deal, right?  For 99% of voters, it isn’t a big deal.  But then there’s that other 1%.  The guy who goes to the wrong polling location.  The girl who comes in after polls close.  The girl who registered for an advance ballot, but comes into the polling place anyway.  These people require me to have 3 hours of training to deal with them.  Sounds about right for most anything.

There were two things that the county election commissioner said that stick out:

1) Blogs aren’t considered media.

How, in this age of the internet with venerated newspapers and magazines failing left and right, are blogs not media?  (The question of what is considered media applies to who is allowed in the polling place. Media are not allowed inside a polling place.  A blogger is, according to the election commissioner, because ‘blogs aren’t considered media.’)  It’s just amazing to me that my county, which was one of the first in the nation to move to modern electronic voting machines, is so far behind the times.

2)The server where all the votes are counted and stored is not networked in any way, either internally or externally, and only has a CD burner, so that no viruses could potentially be introduced via flash drive, etc.

So the vote counting server is just like Battlestar Galactica: absolutely no networking whatsoever.

Gotta Get Back in Time

My mother can be a rather odd duck.  Example: She gave me a bunch of magazines to read, something she does quite often, and I love it.  However, this time half the magazines were from the Summer of 1997 2007.

It’s actually pretty interesting to read Time and Newsweeks from 3 years ago (I got half way through the New York Times Magazine before realising it was old.  But then again, most of their articles aren’t about current events).  It’s really not that long ago, but the feeling of going back in time is still pretty strong. How our world changes so quickly.

In the Summer of 1997 2007:

Anna Quindlan thinks Hillary Clinton is going to win the DNC presidential nomination and should ask Obama to be her VP.

Twilight is just some kids book.

Iraq is a BIG issue.

Top pick: buy cases custom made for this new phone by Apple called an ‘iPhone’

John Travolta is in drag in Hairspray, and his Edna is “as straight as they come.”  Travolta. Straight. Yeah.

Apparently we’re headed into a new era of modestly dressed girls.

Michael Chertoff has a ‘gut feeling’ we’re headed into period of heightened risk.

Ah, those were the salad days.

(edit: I shouldn’t post things late at night.  By 1997 I meant 2007)