“The Secret of Secrets”

December 31, 2009

“The Secret of Secrets” by Sant Darshan Singh is a spectacular book recommended to me by my roommate, Raji.  It is a bit tricky to find, but you can find it with a bit of digging on amazon or barnes and noble.  I wouldn’t normally post about books, but since this one is both obscure and amazing, I thought I should put it out there.

It is a great book for people who have a basic understanding of eastern spirituality and religions, but who want to get a bit deeper into it.  The book takes a slightly unorthodox structure; instead of drawing out topics through flowing chapters, Darshan Singh instead focuses on a particular issue for each chapter.  I find that this style makes for a more logical and easier read.

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Star Wars Uncut

December 31, 2009

A project done over the summer with Nirav Patel: http://eclecti.cc/computergraphics/star-wars-uncut-scene-437-in-stop-motion-photography

Watercolors: Part 2

December 30, 2009

See Part 1.  These are with a bit more practice, although it may not look like it.

Watercolors: Part 1

December 30, 2009

Paintings should generally not have descriptions.  These are some watercolors from when I did not really know what I was doing.

Soapmaking: Part 2

December 30, 2009

I wanted to make soap from scratch for two reasons.   The first was already generally discussed – I knew about the ethical and health problems associated commercial soaps and I wanted to try to do something about it.  But the second reason had slightly fuzzier objectives.  I believe that true knowledge is gained from struggle.  And so going through the fundamental processes of soap making was my way of struggling with the problem in order to uncover the fundamental ideas it contained.  I always remind myself that “scientists can explain the world through science, mathematicians can explain the world through mathematics, and sheep-herders can explain the world through sheep-herding”.  Also, I think because I grew up on a farm, I tend to enjoy old-fashioned, do-it-yourself projects.

So, by making soap from scratch, I was attempting to do something that is not done anymore by most people (including myself).  I was attempting to do something the hard way.  While doing it, I spent an entire day just thinking about soap.  I think that is a pretty powerful idea in itself.  Technology gives us width and breadth in our knowledge, but it often has a way of discouraging us to go deep into one particular idea.  But if we never go deep, how will we ever continue to discover those fundamental essences that make up our individual foundations?  How will mathematicians explain the world through mathematics if they are sitting on a computer being bombarded by incalculable amounts of stimuli?  How will the scientists explain the world through science if they are out with their credit cards wading through an endless number of possible shoes to buy?  And how will the sheep-herder explain the world through sheep-herding if Monsanto just bought all of his sheep?

Am I arguing that we should all boycott all commercial soap products and go home and make soap from scratch?  Of course not.  I only argue that we should be educated and aware of the environmental, health, and ethical problems present in modern soap making.

I have to finish by saying that if I was doing this 200 years ago, I would have been laughed out of town.  In the end my attempt was only a partial success.  I managed to create soap, but not nearly the amount or quality it should have been if everything went right.  After going through every step many times in my mind after the fact, I still do not know where exactly I went wrong – it could have been the lye, or the temperature, or the recipes I used, or the purity of the fat.  However, after thinking about it more, I began to appreciate my failure.  Even with all of my technology, my books, thermometers, scales, and electric stoves, my ancestors could still make better soap than I can.

But there will be a part 3.  I am planning on buying commercial lye online to try test and see if it was my lye that was the problem.  I also want to buy some coconut and palm oil and try out some “vegetarian” recipes.

Environmental Systems: Part 2

December 30, 2009

The second project was to design and produce a complete set of construction documents for a small 1800sf house.  The house needed to be environmental, sustainable, and cheap.  It also needed to have different options for different climates.  Throughout the class we learned about a wide range of topics, from passive and active solar strategies, to thermal envelopes,  to the pros and cons of HVAC systems, to how to use and draw psychometric charts.

I wanted to produce a building that took advantage of simple passive techniques that applied to all kinds of climates without too much change to design.  The most obvious is the large overhanging roof that shades the strong summer sun and lets in the winter sun, protects from northern winter winds and directs southern summer winds, and shelters an outdoor living space.  But beyond this, I worked to incorporate sustainability into every scale of the project, from the window placement to the corner stud details.

PDF: https://johngmartin.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/envsyst_housingproject_johnmartin.pdf

Environmental Systems: Part 1

December 30, 2009

Environmental Systems with Ben Uyeda was a class that encouraged a do-it-yourself kind of learning. We learned the fundamentals of environmental system design in architecture.  Our first project was to film a youtube video that could be used to teach “lay-people” about a specific idea in the vast world of sustainability.  It was a group project, and I worked with Christine Nasir on a film that challenged the general conceptions of sustainability through the age-old battle of the Prius vs. the Hummer.  We wanted to do some stop motion, but because we were pressed for time, and because neither of us drive, we had to be creative.  We chose an approach that was a bit unorthodox, and very cheesy, but one that was short enough that we could pull it off without being annoying.  Plus we used some good music.  But really, who doesn’t like cheesy?