Keep a Bug List

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One of the habits of designers, apparently, is to keep a list of things that annoy them, or seem out of place… In other words, a list of things that could be fixed, if someone put the time and attention into fixing them.

Today during our Earth Day service project (yes, we know that Earth Day was last weekend, but it’s a moveable feast, and we moved it to today), my school divvied up its numbers, kindergarten through eighth grade, into ten teams. Each team got assigned a specific area of campus.  My group got assigned the section of roadway between the main loop on campus and the dumpsters.  It’s an interesting area.  I got to repair a retaining wall with my bare hands — a little bit of operative masonry for a normally-speculative mason like myself.  I got to rake out the leaves from an area that looks like it hasn’t been raked since the Clinton presidency, behind our dumpsters.  I got to pick up trash and make maps of the area for future analysis and gardening opportunities.  And I got to think up half a dozen projects for the future of this area:

  • heliotropes, to take advantage of afternoon sun and to brighten up the west-side classrooms
  • a tulip garden
  • A shade garden
  • a Trash-to-Food program, which composts the middle school food waste into tasty edibles.
  • A “reading courtyard” beside one of the English classrooms with benches and planters (requires moving the dumpsters).
  • The repair of the roadway in two places
  • pouring concrete stepping stones for the campus gardens
  • edging nearby gardens with stones from the four large bins of rocks behind the dumpsters.

I already have some ideas about how to solve these problems, and how to involve the design program in these efforts.  Underlying the solution, though, has to be the built-in idea that things are not quite as perfect as they could be and that I can be part of the solution.  It’s a startling shift in mindset, but it seems to come with practicing visual thinking skills.  Accordingly, let me remind you to check out the design tool I call the semigram, and its inventor, my friend Dave Gray, calls “Flows, Forms and Fields“:

Taiji Day 52: use the room

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A few days ago, I chose to work the subroutines — to know each set of postures that come back to a repeated leitmotif. Today I worked them doubly: there’s that main sequence of four moves:

  • roll back
  • press
  • push
  • [Buddha’s Palm] – technically part of single whip
  • single whip

That keeps repeating all through the form. Its effect is to turn one around — wherever one is in the room, it aims you for the opposite wall or corner. Yet there’s an additional subtlety: as one comes out of Buddha’s palm into single whip, one can step to the inside or outside. The result is that the next sequence can be aimed to the left or to the right.

So, by adding that extra “single whip inside” or “single whip outside” one can double the length of the form, because now each sequence is repeated twice. The lungs were heaving like bellows at the end of this morning’s session. There was another curious effect, though: I used the whole room. There wasn’t a nook or cranny in the whole office that I didn’t have to step into, and I could have used even more floor space than I had.

Side effect: one of my students reports that he can see my aura, and that it’s quite wide compared with other people. Is this the taiji, or meditation, or both? I don’t exactly feel auras, but he says he wants to learn more. Hmm.