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Big Wave Surfing Last Week at Jaws

Photos shot last week by Michelle Baldwin, at Jaws, a tow-in big-surf break on Maui

Natural Architecture

This is a quick rough shot (takes too long to scan it) of one of the pages from Natural Architecture by Alessandro Rocca, Princeton Architectural Press, 2007. Sixty structures of plant materials, some of which are wonderful.

Forest House

Design by architect Nancy Copley, Hudson Valley, New York State
"Each quadrant is oriented directly to the sun as it rotates from the East in the morning, bathing the living room, then to the South, where large glass panels invite warmth to the living and dining area. A large skylight opens the roof at the indoor garden for the West sun. Sloping exterior walls compliment the triangular surfaces of the copper roof."

Robin Williams on HBO

He started out kind of slow, I was wondering Has he lost it, but then he got rolling, and it was brilliant. Wide-ranging subjects. Anyone living in the country will love his take on raccoons, deer, and coyotes. "Coyotes, which are like dogs on crack…they come into your yard…'Hello, I'm a dog, you have any small animals you don't need?'" He uses a lot of metaphors: Republicans impeaching Clinton for Monica: "…like a bunch of lepers judging a beauty contest"/A functioning alcoholic is like being a paraplegic pole dancer/"And ladies, take an alcoholic home for the night, it's like playing pool with a rope." He did a hilarious bit about the design of the male and female reproductive organs. HBO does it again. http://www.robinwilliams.com/

Peter Aschwanden's New Website

Peter Aschwanden was the illustrator of John Muir's wildly popular How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: the Manual for the Compleat Idiot, of which Wikipedia says: "…Muir's self-published edition sold more than two million copies to become one of the most successful self-published books in history, while its subtitle preceded (and likely inspired) the unending flow of "for Dummies" books from IDG Publishing."

We tracked Peter down in 2001, and he agreed to illustrate our Septic Systems Owner's Manual. He ended up making a book on a rather mundane subject into a work of art, with drawings very much like those of R. Crumb. The cover he came up with looked like one of the '60s Fillmore posters. Peter passed away a few years ago, but family and friends have created a website featuring his posters, T-shirts and books. It's at http://www.peteraschwanden.com:

Leaf-shaped House in Finland

Life on a Leaf - a total work of art
"Have you ever wondered why among all these millions of box shaped buildings, you will never see a house shaped like a shoe, a flower or a leaf? This is the question, which set out artist Jan-Erik Andersson on a long and adventurous journey to build his own leaf shaped house in the middle of Turku city in Finland. The house project, called Life on a Leaf, is also the art part of Andersson’s studies for a doctorate degree in visual arts at the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki."
-Finnish artist Jan-Erik Andersson's leaf-shaped house
-Sent us by Peter Warshall

The Hourglass Surfboard by Thomas Meyerhoffer

"…Swedish designer Thomas Meyerhoffer's longboard, introduced in the spring, has a corseted waist and a narrow tail, with a bottom that is more deeply contoured than a typical board. All that curvaceousness is meant to lend the maneuverability of the shortboard, typically ridden by skilled surfers, to the more stable longboard."
-Article by Jesse Ashlock in NY Times Magazine Dec. 10, 2009
-Photo by Nick Allen

Nice Writing by David Sedaris

"…In a neighborhood of stay-at-home moms, Sean's mother worked. A public-health nurse, she was the one you went to if you woke up with yellow eyes, or had jammed the piece of caramel corn too far into your ear. "Oh you're fine," Jean would say, for that was what she wanted us to call her, not Mrs. Taylor. With her high cheekbones and ever so slightly turned-down mouth, she brought to mind a young Katherine Hepburn. Other mothers might be pretty, might, in their 20s or early 30s, pause at beauty, but Jean was clearly parked there for a lifetime. You'd see her in her flower bed, gardening gloves hanging from the waistband of her slacks like someone clawing to get out, and you just had to wish she was your mom instead."
-From an article titled Loggerheads: Sea turtles and Me by David Sedaris, New Yorker, 12/07/07

Running on Mt. Tamalpais Sunday

Steps on Matt Davis Trail up to Table Rock from Stinson Beach. Old auto on Coastal Trail has been there forever, probably since the '50s.

New Cob House by Ianto Evans and Linda Smiley

On Dec. 12, 2009, Ziggy writes: "After the Natural Building Colloquium in Eagle Point, Oregon, I traveled with Ianto Evans and Linda Smiley to their home in Coquille, OR: Cob Cottage Company. For those unawares, Ianto and Linda are two very influential cob building pioneers in North America, and authors of The Hand-Sculpted House, the number one go-to book for cob construction. They have been a huge inspiration for me during my house design process, and reading their book sealed the deal for building my home out of cob. Ianto and Linda have decades of experience building with mud. It was an honor to be able to meet them and spend several nights at their place. It was a great experience…."

Time, News Corp, Hearst Working on Tablet That Can Handle Color/graphics

"Time Inc., News Corp., Conde Nast, Hearst Corp., and Meredith Corp., whose magazines include Time, Cosmopolitan and Better Homes and Gardens, announced a joint venture on Tuesday to develop new ways of presenting publications digitally to rival Kindle's gray "electronic ink" technique. The publishers' answer to the text-oriented Kindle promises to emphasize visuals, retaining the distinctive look of each publication."
-Dec 8, 2009 AP article by Ryan Nakashima, "5 top publishers plan rival to Kindle format" - http://bit.ly/4zFfgv

(This, or Apple's mythical tablet, are what we need for Shelter's graphics-heavy books.)

Also, see Sports Illustrated's SI Tablet concept video: http://bit.ly/4TJSGf

Mosque Leader Says Somali Pirates Heading for Hell

"The use of drugs such as cannabis and the drinking of alcohol, sex and other obnoxious misconduct are now becoming common within the pirates, causing social problems, said Sheikh Ahmed, a mosque leader…"
-Associated Press article by Mohammed Olad Hussan, S.F. Chronicle Dec 8, 2009

Shelter's New Book on Tiny Houses

Once I got back from Europe and the dust settled, I finally started on our tiny houses book. We've been gathering material on the subject for about a year and I'm astounded by the wealth and richness of material. I thought I'd have to wrestle with myself to get rolling on this project in the early stages, but it's taken on a life of its own from day one. I've never had a book take off like this. I'm having a wickedly good time, getting up early in the mornings to work on it. PLUS I'm running across all kinds of other interesting stuff (see blogs of Nov.-Dec.).
There are a ton of books out there on tiny (or "small") houses and more coming, so why are we doing one? Well, we wrote about building small, simple, non-architect, homes in Shelter, 36 years ago. In fact Bob Easton drew up 5 simple little buildings with these roofs: shed, gable, steep gable, gambrel and circular. We told owner-builders to keep it small, simple, and economical, and to not get trapped in a wishful fantasy (domes, 7-sided, abstract shapes, etc). "Quick to build so you can get on with your life."
Secondly, there's an obvious surge of interest nowadays, necessity being the mother, etc.
Third, I've been photographing small buildings for 40 years now.
Fourth, we're doing one of our signature building books, dense with photos and stories, way different from other books, hoping to publish by November 2010. It's gonna be a good one!

*Click here for gambrel roof page from Shelter (shown above).

Ancient Nez Perce Buckskin Dress

“'Shibui” means the type of beauty that doesn’t need announcement; its quality speaks for itself. It involves the maturity, complexity, history, and patina that only time can bring—like a fine vintage wine. Shibui objects have a history which they convey. They speak of understated elegance, utility (each piece serves an important function), rare beauty, and unobtrusive sophistication.'”
"… an ancient buckskin dress, identified as being Nez Perce, pre-1820. Patched and fringed with pale but not white buckskin, the top is banded simply in black and white stripes, “lazy” stitch which means that a short string of beads is not then tacked down bead by bead, but left to be a little fluid. These dresses are really two deerskins, one as the front and one as the back, pieced at the hem, with the tail (hair on) of the deer folded over at the top under the chin, pinned down with beading. The stripe at the top of the arms alternates black, white and red.

"Plains Indian DNA refers back to the high Mongolian prairies, you know. This dress makes one wonder whether aesthetics might be encoded in DNA."
From Mary Scriver's fine blog: http://prairiemary.blogspot.com/2008/05/art-architecture-spring-summer-2008.html

Electric Tea Kettle

I'm not a fan of cooking with electricity, but this is one electric appliance that we use 3-4 times a day, every day of the year. It heats water to tea or coffee (or hot water bottle) temperature in a flash. Our first one lasted maybe 6 years, and we replaced it. While waiting for the new one, it was a drag to have to wait for the kettle to boil on the gas stove. It's called the Chef's Choice 685 International Deluxe Cordless Electric Teakettle: http://bit.ly/5vtm3U
Another one that gets good reviews is the Breville SK500XL Ikon Cordless 1.7-Liter Stainless-Steel Electric Kettle: http://bit.ly/4xQLHb

House on Bridge

From: http://dornob.com/radical-redesigns-bridge-to-home-building-conversions/
No explanation of where or why…

Treehouse in China by David Greenbverg

David Greenberg is an artist and treehouse designer. This is one of the treehouses he designed in China (it's in our book HomeWork).

This photo, by Pete Nelson, is on the French website: http://www.lesechos.fr/luxe/actu/300355342-cabanes-la-grande-evasion.htm

Fred Astaire Rode a Skateboard at Age 78

Fred Astaire was awarded a life membership in the National Skateboard Society At age seventy-eight, he broke his left wrist while riding his grandson's skateboard. He remarked, "Gene Kelly warned me not to be a damned fool, but I'd seen the things those kids got up to on television doing all sorts of tricks. What a routine I could have worked up for a film sequence if they had existed a few years ago. Anyway I was practicing in my driveway."
-From Wikipedia
Photo from: http://www.dancehelp.com/articles/photos/Tap-photos.aspx

Toyota 4x4 Hi-Ace Vans: "Toughest Vehicle on Planet"

Jonathan Hanson on driving on African Savannah at high speed in Land Rovers.: It was "…like…driving across a plowed field over which concrete had been poured to solidify the ridges."
"At 100 kph we danced over them with actual tire-to-earth contact occurring perhaps 10% of the time. But the most astonishing sights were to occasional overstuffed Toyota Hi-Ace van taxis coming the other way at our speed plus, wheels pistoning up and down at an insane pace and the entire vehicle often sideways in a crazy drift around curves…the humble Hi-Ace has to be the toughest vehicle on the planet."
-From the Overland Journal