Sunday, May 15, 2011

Steady rain and a porch rocker spell

Whispers from the past called me today.

I listened.

My grandparents were farmers and way back in the day my parents would pack up every Friday afternoon and drive up to spend the weekend there... most every weekend.

On the way there... my father would sing. A deep baritone. Same songs. Every time. I still remember them all.

As we'd ride... we'd see who could spy the water tower first in town. A windy, slurving ride... that seemed to open up magically onto a giant flat.

And to the farm.

The farm was a giant playground to me. Sheds. Woods. A large hill out back with a winding path up to a sugar house. Open fields across the road with a tractor road... two strips of dirt that led on toward a stream... and a bridge to the hill beyond.

There was always a strange array of tools about. Bizarre looking hand tools... wrenches, hammers, shovels, forks, rakes, sickles, chains... Tractors... trailers... wagons... big and small... giant.

There were piles of sawdust and hay... for leaping.



I'd roam with cows. Herd them about. Roam the hillside with them. I'd walk... and they'd follow. I'd run with barn cats... wiry fast, nimble... easily spooked. I'd hang strings about the hallway for them, tie a nut, bolt, or washer on each hanging piece and swing them... and watch 15 or 20 cats bound about.... or sit like they were watching a tennis match... something I think of today every time I see people watching tennis. I had adventures... conjuring mythical monsters, saving the world... protecting the creatures in my care.

My cousins were about often. And it was always fun. Jackie was closest to me in age and the one I spent the most time with. Other neighbors were around my age too. And we played. Badminton. Frisbee. Endless bike rides. We'd wrestle. Race. Hide and seek. Adventure. And we'd sit on the porch and recover.

My parents often worked a very large garden at the farm which sat on a flat up a slight knoll from the farm house. At the top of the knoll betwween the house and garden sat a large white propane tank, a big beast I used to think looked much like a monstrous cow... an excellent garden guardian. I'd serenade my parents... the tank made an excellent drum... an acoustic marvel of highs and lows, clicks and clacks for some drumsticks I fashioned out of some tree branches. After a while my father would encourage me to take a break from drumming and he'd time me while I ran laps around the garden ; )

We had bondfires... and yes, far away from the propane tank. I can still taste popcorn from an old, long handled popcorn popper... that's still hanging in my garage today.

For some reason... this all came back to me today. And the rocking chair on my porch own porch called me.

To sit. And to slow down.

And my mind started wandering.

The farm was a grand setting. A rural farm. The main road stretched from the left horizon off to the right, a long straightaway that always prompted folks to open up the throttle on their cars. The farm connected to the horizon -like straightaway by driveway which was lined with some tall swaying pines. The driveway was lathered in rough gravel... and it had a sound to it. It would announce that someone was coming... if the long stretch of road didn't.

It was a cast of characters that visited. I'd listen to them all tell their stories, catch up on business, plan out the hay season, share a beer... or two... or three, or pile in for some dinner. People spent a lot of time visiting. I can still see their faces, the lot of them. It was a community hang out. Always someone visiting.

The porch on the house off the driveway acted much like an amphitheater to it all. Especially to the sounds of the wind... and the giant swaying pines that lined the driveway. It was always breezy there... or so I remember. An old farmhouse, a large barn... sheds... tractors... cows... and the smells. Smells from the kitchen always swirled around.... roasts, biscuits, bread, cookies. They swirled in with... flowering crab and pine trees, flowers, cut grass, hay, cows...

A haven to a cast of characters... all of us.

The porch back then had a few rocking chairs on it. Deep ones, a few with a graceful lean backward. The kind that catch you. I used to rock back then... to find shade, have something cool to drink... to prepare for the next adventure. Over time... it became more of a habit. I'd let my mind wander. In the shade. In the breeze. I'd dream. It was a habit I learned from my Grandmother as I think of it. Ihave visions of her... sitting... and soaking it in... and slowing down.

It can be a struggle to slow down your mind these days. We move from one thing to another. A relentless sort of pace. Another bill to pay, another meeting, another project. Prepare for tomorrow. Washing. Cleaning. Shopping.

Today though... was different.

It's raining today... all day, a steady rain. I've always loved sitting under a porch, in a rocking chair, especially when it rains. And slow down my mind... ever since I was a kid.




And I breathe deep.

And I slowly rock to and fro.

We have a lot of flowers about. Flowering crab trees.

My mind wanders from place to place.

Baseball. Getting ready for playoffs. Lots to tune up.


A great article to read. Or two. Or three.

End of the school year rush. Usually the time of year when folks want to schedule meetings urgently before the end of the year. Some get frantic. Some stressed. Lots of emotion. Then come the cool parts of shoring up the years work, the chats with folks on the cusp of graduation from high school, and with those who are returning from college to check in. Catching up with people, hearing how their time here helped them... is endlessly rejuvenating to me and I'm grateful for the stories they share.

Birds flying here and there.

Steady rain.

And all the sounds the rain brings. An acoustic, soothing marvel.

My grandparents house... I can picture it vividly. White with green shutters. The clothes line. When the wind would rise up... the trees would sway, almost like strings being played...

The sheets always had a fresh smell to them... from being hung out...

I'd sit on the porch...

and I'd rock.

and I'd listen.

and my mind wander where it needed to go.

And I'd dream.

And I'd slow down.

And watch it rain.

And I'd go traveling... right there in that rocking chair.

Just like I did today.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad... on the porch

Friday, May 6, 2011

Inspiring Ideas... Dec 19, 2007

1st floor design we sketched out back on Dec, 19, 2007.

I drafted the post below up in the Summer of 2009 and decided, at long last, to publish it. There’s a campus master plan brewing now, exploring ideas for the next round of improvements at BBA. I’ve mentioned this idea Brian Gawlik and I drafted up back in the day to a few people over the years. Most recently Neil Freebern asked to see some of the drafts.
'Here goes'...

Dec 19, 2007... It was a pretty typical scene. Around 6pm I stopped by Brian Gawlik's office to say I was headed out. The usual banter, a few jokes, thoughts on the day, and on what’s coming up, a discussion on education, politics, the future. Brian mentioned he'd been thinking a lot about the discussions we kept jumping into about conjuring up a new workspace, new programs and how we’d spin the idea of a new building. 5 minutes quickly turned into 10. About then we sat down at the table and started sketching out ideas.

4 hours later… we'd drafted up quite a view into the future:

Create a Fabrication Shop, connect two sound stages (black box style / green screen rooms), video and audio editing rooms, computer labs, an open common area / lounge / screening room with movable furniture, cafe, create partnerships... 

After realizing it had quickly become 1130pm... we had a good laugh and decided to head home.

I remember I barely slept that night. Brian reported the the next morning he’d barely slept either, and showed me some sketches he’d continued on that night on the project space. We reviewed the sketches and bounced around some more ideas. That day I started pulling pictures off the web that matched the look and feel, modern warehouse style from our conversations and sent the link to Brian to view. We chipped away at the ideas over the next few weeks and joked about how improbable it was that the school would build any new facilities any time soon.

Close to retirement from BBA in the Spring of 2008, then Headmaster Chuck Scranton announced the scope of the upcoming five-year plan to the Faculty: The need for a new wood shop, ideas to expand the program, the thought of a new dorm for students, the idea of creating a magnate program at the school. Immediately following the meeting, Brian and I fired up the conversation again, how the new building idea anchored a vast number of the goals Chuck announced that day... the chance to create a modern, innovative program facility.

Then Brian got quite sick. Our conversations became sporadic... an email here and there from the hospital.

Brian came back to school for a short time and was pleased to hear the idea was still brewing. “Keep at it,” he said. “That’s one hell of a program.”

And then after what seemed like a very quick couple of months, Brian passed away on December 8th, 2009.

I’ve thought about the idea we conjured up that night often and about what he said that day in the hallway about keeping the idea going.

So here it is from the notes Brian and I worked on that evening, way back on Dec 19th, 2007, the pictures we saved to a Picasa album on the look and feel a day later... and how idea took off with the the idea of revamping the wood shop into a Fabrication Shop.
Fabrication Shop:
Metals, woods, plastics, 3D printing. 
Basic through advanced and independent work. 
Open work spaces, project tables.
(MIT Fab(rication Lab) kits as a basis to build off (30k base).

The Shop would be an anchor for:
Basic through advanced wood classes. Integration of the wood classes into:
Theater and drama dept: Set design, building. 
New and creative fabrication ideas for all classes. Insert: 5/2009: Serving: MPA, Wood, Science (engineering class), art studios.
Multiple avenues for cross curricular projects, integration with art studios, sculptures, large murals.
Staging areas for projects. Mobile racks to move objects in and out of staging areas.

Garage door for projects to exit outside to theater and to bring in materials.

Connected to the shop would be two sound stages / green screen rooms, one large, one small. One or both could be built off the shop to move sets in and out of... Garage door access from the Shop into the sound stage.

Dressing rooms / prop rooms for sound stages.


Attached to the sound stages: The opportunity to merge high end computer lab/s, digital film, audio engineering, and music. Audio and video editing rooms... Collaborative spaces.

Conference room: Project planning, production meetings.

Storyboard space.

Common area for screenings and large project meetings, a large white wall to project on: movable couches and chairs, configurable space.

Small cafe integrated into the common room: The building has the potential to be open more hours, weekends etc for projects. Student staffed and opportunities for more advanced culinary work.

Look and Feel of the Facility:
Open collaborative style.
Idea for 1 ½ story: Open space over common area. Open staircase leading to second floor.
Green building scope, natural light, glass, open industrial style scope.
Images from the web on look and feel, industrial style (Picasa).

Creates a magnate program for BBA.

Enormous draw for International Students.
Potential for yr 13 program (gap yr film institute program, cheaper than college... (West coast) yr 13 program style), and partnerships with a Grad School.

Grad school partnerships: Film crews, shared expertise, project leadership, collaboration, indy film / documentary showcase potential: Partnership with Tisch Grad Program, NYU: Grad students lead to film crews. Contacts: Kyle Komline, Tim Velsor (as of Dec, 2007).

Leads to facility being open longer, Summer... lots of possibilities.

Possibility of grad students integrating into dorm supervision?

Modern, Weta-Works style, multi-function, cross-curricular creative project space.

Site ideas: Maintenance building site across from the Rowland Center. Move Maintenance across the road, refit that nonfunctional garage space. Rectangle or L...

... End notes

I found this video later of High Tech High in California, a warehouse style, modern space with hands-on labs, project work and some great philosophies on learning.

Good memories and interesting ideas for the future. Hey, when you start dreaming... who knows what can happen. Who knows where it might lead. Engage. AP

Monday, May 2, 2011

Digital Dossier

This video below, 'Digital Dossier', (discovered from a Twitter post from @bonniebird) speaks about the digital footprints we accumulate in our lives. With each passing year, the digital traces we leave behind will increase.

Curious what your digital dossier looks like? What might it look like in the future?

I get very concerned when I hear of schools simply blocking social media services, engaging in no discussions on these fronts, of simply practicing an 'out of sight, out of mind' sort of approach. There's no better time to start discussing and exploring these types of questions in schools.