Saturday, December 3, 2016

Alaska Humanities Forum Mini Grant

When I came to the Museum of the Aleutians it was immediately apparent that two things had to be done; the museum needed to complete an inventory of the collections and needed to spend the next year focused on collections engagement.
In the first 90 days, we were awarded an Alaska State Museums grant for the inventory, and an Alaska Humanities Forum mini grant for the community engagement.

Though a small grant, the Humanities Forum is allowing the museum to host three "mini" exhibits aimed at showcasing portions of the collection as they are inventoried. Tonight, we opened the first exhibit. "Focus on Collections: Grassweave Baskets."

Today, we had 120 kids from the elementary school come through the exhibit, and tonight we had a "mini" reception for about 20 people.

In the last two weeks we have re-inventoried every basket in the collection, and every basket has been put on display. Though very remote, the museum was set up with some stellar equipment and has the capability of doing pretty cool stuff in house. even with a small staff of three, we were able to turn out a very professional looking exhibit. It will be up for the next six weeks. Then another "mini" exhibit will take its place.  

Today was a big day, and I was very proud of how much work our new staff put in to making it successful. It was a cool day - oh, and also the first blizzard.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Giving Tuesday

Today was Giving Tuesday. The day when our self-driven, consumer-oriented, capitalistic culture is supposed to give back.

The day started with a friend sending me a story from overseas entitled, "After five years, has Giving Tuesday caught on?"

That was the Marketplace story that ran today on NPR.

At the Imperial Valley Desert Museum the Giving Tuesday campaign raised just under $2,000 from 16 donors. It was an average of $120 per person. This is four times what we raised last year.

About half of the people who gave I know personally. Two of them I know intimately. So yes, NPR, it has caught on. Giving Tuesday is a success. Or is it...

The surprising thing to me is that out of the 300+ members of the museum, the 11 people who sit on the Board of Directors, and the five people we employ, only 16 people donated to the museum on our Giving Tuesday campaign.

I understand that people give their time, and their energy, and their support, but at some point you have to GIVE. I think that is what the founders of Giving Tuesday set out to achieve. A day when we would give back. Not our time, but our money.

I think my family spent around $600 between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I got one thing I wanted. But today, on Giving Tuesday, we gave to three organizations totaling $170.

I feel so smug in my benevolence. But should I? I received a dozen or more requests in my inbox today from organizations that I really believe in and that I really want to support. But, evidently, the things I want are more important than the things I believe in.

That should be a lesson to us all. 100% of the Education Programs at the Imperial Valley Desert Museum are funded by donations. Today, people gave 30% of what we were hoping.

I will go buy a new Coach purse for my wife. You decide which kids don't get to come to the museum.    

Thursday, November 17, 2016

What is an Adventure?

I have been writing this blog for almost 10 years. But between 2013 and 2015, there were only 9 posts. I have been going though my blog in the last few days! I have been the most productive and have had the most professional success between 2013-2015. I am bummed out that I did not share this. There should have been a lot of pictures to share between these three years...

Blog posts are better when they include a picture. But there are a lot of posts that are just text. Boring! 

but then again, these are some pretty cool tires. I have written about Jeeps before. But I have not really expressed my obsession. These tires will be paid for in just a few days. I wish I could see them, but I am in Alaska, where I walk five miles a day because I do not have a car. Soon, however, these tires will be on a 2014 Wrangler, and an even better set will be on a 2000 Wrangler. 

But I digress. I don't think I have ever even posted a picture of my 2000 Wrangler

Soon come. Soon come. . 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Research and Researchers

For the first 60 days that I was at the Museum of the Aleutians, we had a researcher in the building every day. Marjolein Admiraal, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Gronigen, in York, England, came to do isotope studies on 4,000 year old stone bowl cooking vessels. Then, Kale Bruner, a Ph.D. candidate from the University of Kansas, came to do a Minimum Nodule Analysis study at another 6,000 year old site. She is looking for "standard technological attributes to reconstruct lithic nodules brought to and reduced at different archaeological sites."

Her work was amazing. She started with our collections of thousands of unsorted flakes - the trash left when making a stone tool - and sorted them by color and then by geological grain pattern. She analyzed the grain by placing each flake under a microscope. She worked in the museum every day for 8 weeks and identified more than 50 nodules, or cores,  in each of the three assemblages. A core is the piece of rock that a paleolithic hunter would start with when making a tool.

I would normally consider the stuff she was working with as trash. I never understood the value of these small pieces of rock. But her dissertation is ground breaking and has opened my eyes to a whole new line of research

This week, our new Collections Manager came onto staff. We have initiated a new strategic direction, with a focus on staff directed research. The first thing she is working on is an National Science Foundation emergency grant to complete excavations at an archaeological site that is eroding along one of the beaches. I have been monitoring the site since I got here. It is an unprotected site that is being looted as it erodes. The Aleutian Islands are ground central for climate change. And both the archaeological collections at the museum and the sites around the islands offer research opportunities to show how quickly the climate has shifted in the past, and how humans have adapted to these shifts.

It is exciting stuff. I wish I had the background to do the actual research. The science is cool. But evidently it is my job to put the science into accessible words and programs so that everyone can benefit. In the last 60 days we have been awarded three small grants that I have written and we will be producing a series of four quick temporary exhibits focused on our research collections. That, I think, will this weekend.    

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election Day

The last polling places to close in the US are in the Aleutian Islands. They close in about an hour. These islands are the farthest west you can go in the US. The election is not over until the polls here close.

I don't think that the few thousand votes will make a difference to the outcome of the election. And it is likely that the election will be decided before the polls close.

But you would not know this from being here. The votes here count. And the political debate is as vigorous as anywhere else in the US. Alaska is very conservative. In fact, if many people really believed what they say, they would be voting Libertarian. Really, no different than in the Desert Southwest. At the same time, I hang out with teachers, who are largely very liberal. The local elections here were last week. The new mayor beat the incumbent by just 5 votes. I heard last night that everyone is trying to take credit for being one of the five votes!  

Monday, November 7, 2016

Grand Turk Photos, 2009 - RE: see last post

Bonfire of the Vanities

I have been looking at pictures from Grand Turk this week. My computer is acting funny, so I have been saving files down to an external hard drive. In every photo we are eating on a screened-in porch with a beautiful backdrop. In the Turks and Caicos, evening lasted a long time. The sun was often up until 9pm or so, and every day was nearly perfect. You just had to be on a screened-in porch. The mosquitoes were the worst on Grand Turk. You never see them in the pictures, but I was at several parties that were ruined by mosquitoes.

In the deserts of Southern California, it is often too hot to do anything until nightfall. So our gatherings there were after dark when the heat of the day cooled down. My favorite thing about Imperial County was swimming at midnight when the temperature of the water was 100 degrees and the temperature of the air was 100 degrees.

In the Aleutian Islands, bonfires are the focal point of gatherings. There are shipping pallets everywhere, Thousands of them. Everything on and off the island goes on pallets. And Dutch Harbor is a major stop for international trans-Pacific cargo boats - when they need something. There are lots of pallets.

So a pallet bonfire is very typical. There are places all over the island where you can see the evidence of someone's party. If you are walking on the beach, you will eventually come across evidence of a bonfire.

On Saturday, I was invited to the "christening" of someone's new metal fire pit. They had made a large ring of metal pilings, metal used to build retaining walls for shipping channels. The party was at the house of a significant regional artist who specializes in woodblock printing. The artist had drawn the outlines of a starfish, and a local welder had cut the details into the 1/2 inch metal. He said that each plate took 12 hours to cut with a blow torch. I am pretty sure all this work was done by bartering art.  I have to admit, the fire pit was cool. It was 30 degrees on Saturday and I walked to work in the snow. But humans find ways to adapt. Though it was sleeting and the conditions sound unreasonable, the party was very enjoyable, and with the fire blazing it felt quite normal. And did I mention, there are no mosquitoes here.        

Friday, November 4, 2016

Devil in the Details

In the last several weeks, I have noticed something during my weekly building inspection at the Museum of the Aleutians that has made me think a lot about design, facilities maintenance, and the "real" job at most museums.     

In September, I participated in a conference session at the Museums Alaska conference in Juneau. The session was called “Working with the Architect.” The session was a lot about bashing your architectural services provider over poor decisions made during the design and construction process of building a new museum. I became part of the session after two other presenters were not able to make it. I am pretty sure they did not know I have a degree in architecture and was coming at the topic slightly differently than everyone else. Though, full disclosure, I also have my issues with the architectural services provider at every museum I have ever worked at. 

The session was really about small decisions. The big decisions in most cases are cool. They result in spaces and places that visitors think are cool. The reality is that architects design spaces where people want to sit and drink a cup of coffee. Well, good architects design those spaces. I showed images and talked about the new museum in Nome, Alaska, the Snohetta designed museum in the Turks and Caicos, the Wexner Center on the campus of The Ohio State University, and the Ohio Village Church at the Ohio History Connection.

When it comes to the architect and facilities maintenance issues, the devil is in the details. At the Museum of the Aleutians, the problem is the detailing and specification of the men's urinal. This Kohler urinal is designed and mounted in such a way that everyone urinates on the floor when they use it. At first I thought is was the average age of cruise ship passengers. Then, I thought maybe it was just me. Now, I blame the architect.

I have to mop this floor every two days, and immediately after a cruise ship visit. It is a combination of a poorly designed fixture mixed with a poorly specified floor tile. But, it is a facilities nightmare. I have not come up with a solution, and it makes me wonder if someone has been mopping the floor every two days since 1999, when the building was completed. 

There is a joke about the getting a job as the Executive Director of a small museum. It means you get to clean the toilet, I guess this is no joke. This week we hired the fourth staff person. In the last three months we have gone from being closed to having four people hired on staff. 

But I am still cleaning the toilets. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Difference a Day Makes

These two pictures are the views from the Museum of the Aleutians looking over Margaret's Bay to the Aleyeska processing plant.

One was taken yesterday, one today.

I have been watching the boats over there load crab pots for the last week. The pots are stored in lots all over the island. They were picked up by threes on the back of a tow truck and driven to the ship, which loaded them on with a crane.
Tomorrow is the beginning of King Crab season. The Original Productions crews, the production company behind Deadliest Catch, arrived last week.

The blue boat in this picture is the Fierce Allegiance. It is one of the Deadliest Catch boats. On Wednesday, the crew of the Northwestern was eating at the buffet at the Grant Aleutian hotel when we were in there. The other day I saw one of the Deadliest Catch captains in the Ship Supply.

About an hour ago, the crab boats left dock. I think they might be going out to today so they are in the Bearing Sea tomorrow when the the season officially starts. It is an exciting time. It has been very busy here all week, and now today everyone is gone. What a difference a day makes.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Last Great Day

This weekend was amazing...

the last good weather day before winter.

I hiked to the top of Bunker Hill.

Dutch Harbor is one of the only two places in the US to be attacked by a foreign power. The other place is Pearl Harbor. Maybe you have heard of it.

The evidence of the US occupation of Unalaska is everywhere. It reminds me a lot of my visit to Normandy in 1994. There are concrete pillboxes every 100 hundred yards or so. Bunker Hill is the main observation post that coordinated the fire of the main guns out to sea. The concrete bunkers are accessible, after a four mile hike, and are really cool...for myself and the industrial archaeologist that I was with.

The view was spectacular...but this was the last really nice day. As I understand it, from now until next summer it will be rainy and foggy.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


This blog started on September 9, 2007, with a post entitled "Starting from Scratch." Now, nine years later, it feels a little the same. I have been in a totally unfurnished apartment for the last 30 days,  In fact, when I re-read the first couple weeks of blogs from our move to Grand Turk...It sounds a lot like my experience of being here for the first couple of weeks.

This weekend, however, I borrowed a truck and was able to source a whole bunch of trash and scrap. On Saturday I watched Ohio State football game. And then on Sunday, I started making furniture.

I finished a coffee table and a bar-height dining table. These were made from a sign that was removed from the Methodist Church. Just to be clear, I did not remove the sign, the posts had rotted, I made arrangements and took it off their trash pile.

I have plans for a couple other pieces, but they will have to wait because I am flying out today to a couple of conferences.

Friday, September 16, 2016

No Senior Discount?

This week we hosted a large cruise ship with 2500 passengers on board. About 500 visitors came through the museum in just a couple hours. I am going to guess that 75% of the people coming up to the front desk asked if we had a senior discount. At first I just said no, but that did not get a very good response. So, I stated saying, "Everyone who comes to this museum is a senior, so $7.00 IS the discount." This generally got a chuckle instead of a sneer. I also noticed that Kayla, our new visitor services rep started saying it, too. It was effective.

Yesterday, Kayla was Googling definitions and found this.

Come on! Even Google? The definition is literally "senior citizens are admitted free to the museum."

As if it was not hard enough already to keep our museums funded and going. I wish I had a little Google money to cover all those free admissions.

Well, given this interpretation of the definition, I wanted to post a sign saying "No seniors admitted."

But everyone else thought this was a really, really bad idea. Now I am thinking about raising our admission price. Then I can afford to give a senior discount.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Day 31

Today is day 31. I have come into the museum every day for the last month. Working usually ten hours a day. The first couple weeks were about figuring out the building after it has been closed for nine months. We have had a fire inspection, fire alarm inspection, boiler inspection, backflow preventer inspection, a leaky toilet fixed, keys to locked doors found, Also, I had to figure out the gift shop and point of purchase procedures.

The day after my plane arrived a fog rolled in and no planes landed for the next three days. The transition team that was supposed to complete my on-boarding did not arrive. On day two we had 159 cruise ship guests and sold $619.25 out of the gift shop. I did not record the sales. On day five we had 621 cruise ship passengers in about three hours and sold $2,269.30 out of the gift shop. I recorded everything down on a yellow legal pad as it sold. The bookkeeper just now figured out that mess and reconciled the deposit this week. In the 31 days we have been trying to make due with no system and no staff in place, we were only off by $4.25. Probably a note card. We now have the point of purchase system figured out and I am training people on it.

The second two weeks have been about figuring out direction. I hired the first staff person, a part-time visitor services representative. I have written and advertised the Collections Manager position. I have also re-written the Experimental Programs Intern position I developed at IVDM. These jobs have been posted on the Job Board at the Western Museum Association website.

I extended the lease on the unfurnished apartment. This will allow me to house the education intern. With no car here, I walk 2.5 miles to work and 2.5 miles home. It rains here everyday, so one of those walks is usually in the rain. And this week I gave myself a haircut. It does not look bad because my phone is so crappy.

On the flip side, I have gotten to see two football games. Though not Ohio State football, and Monday Night football starts here at 4:30PM, so I have to leave early from the museum to catch a game - but the one hotel is next door so its not much of a walk.  


Saturday, September 10, 2016

Selfie Station, Maybe

At the Museum of the Aleutians there is a gallery that is designed to tell the history of the fishing industry and the Coast Guard, but it does this very ineffectively. The panels are arranged in an awkward layout, 1/4th of the room is devoted to a ship model, most all of the interpretation is from a 45-minute video that plays on a loop, and there is a strange area (half of the room) devoted to a fake ship deck sort of looking thing. There is also rain gear hung on the wall.

I think this exhibit area was designed as a selfie station, or at least a photo op. But there are no signs, directions, or indications that you are supposed to try on the rain gear.  In fact, in the three weeks I have been here 1,554 visitors have come through the building, and I have never seen someone put on the rain gear. Visitor stay tine in this part of the exhibit is the lowest of all the galleries.

I brought this up to the one person I have hired on staff so far, and she did not know what I was talking about. So we took turns trying it out to see if I was right.

Deneen said it looked fake. I reminded her that it is totally fake.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Whales, Boats, Cruise Ships

Today, the Crystal Millennium was in port. 2250 people got off the boat, 500 came to the museum. But, again, I will talk about this later.

What I want to talk about is what happened last week.

Last week I tagged along on a boat ride to Hog Island with a Fish and Wildlife guy and a couple of archaeologists. This was my first trip on the water and my first trip to an outer island.

The archaeologists were looking for sites that had been excavated in the 1990s. Hog Island has not been inhabited since WWII and they thought the sites should be visible from where the 1m x 1m test pits had been dug. They were right.

Archaeological testing has been limited on the island, which surprised me because everywhere I looked I thought the land forms looked good for prehistoric occupation

And everywhere I looked I found evidence of this. There is a lot of work that could done here and that is exciting.

But that is a story for another time.

This blog is about whales.

On the way back, we passed by three humpback whales swimming in Captains Bay. There were whales in Grand Turk, and there were whales in San Diego, but this is the first time I have ever seen whales. And they were really close. It was cool.

The whales have been in the bay for the last two weeks. Today, the passengers off the cruise ship were able to walk to the bay and see them. They are spouting and just hanging out. I saw them again, just catching a ride home tonight.

How cool is that. Whales for the first time.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Dinner and a Movie

This weekend was Labor Day weekend I think. I worked all weekend at the museum so it doesn't really matter. I have been redoing the gift shop at the Museum of the Aleutians. I recorded visitor statistics during August, and I have a strategy to increase shop sales. I have a goal to double sales. But I will discuss that later.

On Saturday I invited the archaeologist who is completing research in the collection over for dinner. She has been on the island for three weeks and has been camping. I have no furniture or really anything else. but I did bring two iron skillets - perfect for Mexican food,

I made jalapenos stuffed with black bean and cream cheese and carne asada tacos with a home-made guacamole. The guacamole was good, but the most expensive thing we ate. I can't believe how much avocados are here.  They were basically free in San Diego, but we are not in San Diego any more Toto. My small bowl of guac cost $8 bucks. I might as well had bought it at Chipotle.

You can take the boy out of the country, or something like that.

Oh, and no movie. I don't have any furniture; let alone a TV.

Thursday, September 1, 2016


I have not been able to post a blog because the internet is too slow to upload. Also, when I talk on the phone the call drops about four times.

Dave got so frustrated he stopped calling. Deneen is even more frustrated.

After a week of frustration with the internet at the museum, today I bought 4 gigs from the Optima Hotspot that every one says is the fasted internet connection. It is $25 per GB.

But, now I can blog.

So, this is a picture of where I am living. I have rented a three bedroom unfurnished apartment. I have an mattress and two folding chairs. Today, however, is a really important day. My two pillows finally arrived from Amazon Prime. It only took 11 days for the two day delivery.

This may seem like a little thing, but it is huge. I have been working 14 hours a day and then coming home to sleep without pillows. Enough complaining. I am going to go to sleep on my new pillows.

....if only I had ordered pillow cases.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Senator Sullivan

This has been a very busy two weeks. Three cruise ships, a wedding, a climate change conference, three researchers, and a visit from the Senator Dan Sullivan (R). The senator was in Unalaska for three days. Mostly to talk about the fishery. Need I remind you, Dutch Harbor is the number one fishery in the United States for pounds landed.

If you are go to Red Lobster for Crab Fest you are eating our catch.

But the Senator also came to the museum. He was scheduled for 15 minutes, I think. but stayed for nearly 25 minutes. This is a picture of him looking at the Women of Ounalashka, our most famous and important artifact.

I did not get to put my two cents in about the importance of funding the IMLS and the NEH, but I will send that on to his aid.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Day 7

Almost everyone I have met on Unalaska Island wants to know when the museum is going to be opened. This has a very familiar ring to it. It is the same question everyone asked in the Imperial Valley in California. This is a hard question for me. There is no staff. In fact I have not even started looking at what the staffing plan looks like.

At the same time, we have been open this week for cruise ships and there are two Ph.D. students who came to the island to do research in our collections, we hosted a dinner for a climate change conference, and had a wedding. I have been working 12 hours a day, and my visitor count is 971.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Crystal Serenity

The Crystal Serenity was here yesterday in Unalaska. This is the first cruise whip to go through the Northwest Passage through the Arctic Circle.  Here is an excerpt from a Washington Post article, 
"The once forbidding Arctic region, home to polar bears and ice-covered seas, has melted enough that this summer, it's open not only for shipping but high-end tourism.
The proof lies in the Crystal Serenity cruise, a luxury tour of the Arctic that promises to carry passengers through the storied Northwest Passage and across the roof of the world. The controversial cruise was scheduled to set sail Tuesday from Seward, Alaska, and dock 32 days later in New York City.
Scientists have long predicted this moment, although as recently as last year, a scientific study found the Northwest Passage would remain too unpredictable for regular shipping for some time to come. But that hasn't stopped some commercial shipping vessels from already making the journey. Nor did it stop the planning for the Arctic's inaugural cruise – a journey that will mark the first case of mega-scale tourism in one of last virtually untouched landscapes left in the world.
As many as 1,700 passengers and crew were expected to be on board the Crystal Serenity, which will transit the Bering Strait and visit Greenland. Tickets for the historic journey started at about $22,000 and went into the six figures. That price doesn't include extras that guests can book, such as a helicopter ride or side excursion to a Greenland glacier."

Thursday, August 18, 2016

First Day

Ok, really second day. I arrived Sunday night. Monday was spent just getting keys, learning where lights switches are, going to grocery store,  figuring out where I get cell service, how I get on the internet, etc.

Evidently, the plane I came in on was the only plane to land over the last two days. It has been really foggy. The two people who were coming to the island to walk me through the staffing transition are still stuck in the Anchorage airport.

So, much like my first two days on Grand Turk, I had about eight hours to prep read, and figure out the gift shop before the first cruise ship arrived to Unalaska on Tuesday, I also had to find a person to hire to run the gift shop for three hours.

The ship was a small  French luxury cruise ship that sailed out of Nome with 188 guests. They anchored in the bay and were brought to the island on Zodiacs, 10 passengers at a time. They disembarked on the beach below the museum in heavy rain gear.

All the passengers came through the museum and we were reimbursed by the Chamber of Commerce, who invoiced the ship. I did not understand this. On Grand Turk we estimated that we would service 3% of the passengers on any one cruise ship. But here we service 100% of the passengers. It was not chaos on Tuesday, however, the ships that stop in Unalaska are filled with guests who are traveling to extraordinary places, the tickets are expensive, and they are interested in learning.

On Friday, the Crystal Serenity will be stopping. This ship will have 1,700 passengers on board. The ship is taking a month-long voyage between Alaska to New York and will be the first cruise ship to circumnavigate the Arctic Circle.

I have also been attending a Climate Change conference that is being hosted on island all week. There has been a lot of conversation about erosion, ship wrecks, warming, ocean acidification, and other stuff that goes way over my head, If you want the best evidence of global warming and ice melt - next week will be the first circumnavigation of the Arctic Circle by a CRUISE SHIP!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Alaska Arrival

Left San Diego at 4:30am and I have just arrived in Anchorage. In a couple hours I will be getting on a small plan to Dutch Harbor to start our new adventure. I will be working at the Museum of the Aleutians for the next three months.

Last night, Deneen and I ate at our favorite restaurant  in San Diego, the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Old Town. we had a wonderful evening.

I am not sure what will happen for the rest of the day. It has been a long day of flights and I still have one to go. I will get into the apartment I have rented for the month and figure out a plan for tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Lucas' Life Through My Eyes

In May, 2012, I wrote a blog post with a bunch of pictures I took of Lucas in amazing places. It is one of my most viewed posts.

I think I was trying to point out that I did not want to hear any more of his complaints.

He is much older now, and rarely complains. But it still seems that I am taking photos of him in amazing places.
After Lucas spent the last seven months in London, I met him in Hungary and we worked on the project that has been the focus of the last several blogs.

He leaves Columbus, Ohio, today to begin his senior year in the school of architecture at Judson University, which will also probably be amazing.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Day by Day Hellowood Journal

Wednesday, July 13 - arrived at Hellowood around 6:30pm. On the drive we watched a large storm developing around us. At 7:10pm the storm erupted with golf-ball sized hail. A very unusual storm, said everyone who was from Hungary. After the storm I walked up to the building sites to get a feel for what areas were available. It was very clear that the "ruin" that was located on the maps was a foundation of a center-door pass-though barn.

Thursday, July 14 - Martin, Lucas, and I walked up to the building site and chose the barn ruin as our site, We saw a large black snake in the field. Students arrived at at 1:00pm. We met with our team and walked up to the site. The truck of wood arrived at 8:54. Everyone unloaded. In the evening we had a lecture on Plato and Greek city planning - a presentation that was good, but did not have enough images of Greek cities. It was very cold.

Friday, July 15 - started digging post holes at 9:30am. everyone else went to a tool safety meeting for two hours. Our goal of the day was to get one "bent" up. Martin, Lucas, and Raya participated in the two hour site planning meeting. We were allowed to keep our site that we had already started digging post holes on. Risky but worked out. Began cleaning the foundation of the ruin. Set the smallest bent in the ground. Notified that storm was coming. Moved all our wood again to protect it from rain. Project presentations were given by each team. Balkan Brothers band played under the tent next to our site. First big party.

Saturday, July 16 - day was rained out. At 10:00am we held the evening lectures in the barn. I went up to the site and cut 26 joints in our 2m and 3m posts with Saba and Attila, which foreshadowed the week to come. Martin and Lucas met with the rest of the team to work through our wood allocation and to begin the design of out fire/altar space. During the evening we had four more lectures, and then another party with Mongoose and the Magnet playing in the barn.

Sunday, July 17 - still raining and damp. Cut wood, dug post holes, and cleaned foundation of ruin all day. Started burning the ends of our posts with the people from "Play with Fire." Everyone worked under the tent with all teams working on top of each other.

Monday, July 18 - Day 5. Super big work day. Lifted bent 2 then bent 1. Everything cancelled so teams could work all day. After dinner we worked through the night filling in post holes. Started our first fire at the site, 40 people hung out. Worked on the site until 3am. Attila and Ania glued and screwed the 9m ridge beam together

Tuesday, July 19 - Woke to find wall very skewed. Lucas dug out the post holes and we reset the posts using a string line. Erected "bell tower" and 2m deck. Big work day. Lectures during the evening. My lecture was last. I spoke at midnight.

Wednesday, July 20 - big work day. Started work at 7:30am  Erected double posts on the front elevation. Placed double posts for the ridge beam supports. Lots of meetings about the ridge beam. Thought crane was coming early afternoon. Worked to get ridge beam supports but had many delays. At dinner time, 7pm, our crane arrived to lift the ridge beam in place. After dinner we set the rock wall bent. Attila would not let us go to bed. Cut and set deck floor joists for 3m deck. Worked until 3am.

Thursday, July 21 - final work day. Started working at 8:30am. set second deck. erected last "white" double post. Installed Shinto gate. Installed final board as the bar on the 3m deck. had to be finished by 4pm. Press interviews. At 6pm all teams walked the site and leaders presented projects. Symposium and round table. First shower in three days. Evening party with band. All projects lit by flood lights. I went to bed at 11pm when I thought the party was winding down. Martin and Lucas went to bed at 4:30am. Others were still up when I awoke for coffee at 7am.

Friday, July 22 - left Hellowood at 2pm. Two hour drive to Stacio Airport Hotel. Did not see anyone up yet or get to say goodbye to anyone from our team.  

Saturday, July 23, 2016


Now that the madness is over, I will probably reflect for a few days on the Hellowood experience. The Hellowood summer camp is a hands-on experiential design and build program that has teaching at the core of its mission.

As a program, it embodies my teaching philosophy and is a large scale version of my work with students and interns.

I was not sure what to expect. In some ways, it felt like we were given a site and a team and then left alone to build our vision. In other ways, it felt like there was a lot of planning and support. Was it our choice to work so many long hours? Was this driven by me or by the team? Or by the combined spirit of all of us to achieve the outcome we invisioned? When we were in the thick of building I never thought of being sore or being tired, and I never thought what we were doing was extrordinary.

Here is my reflection for today, though. We shared a supply of tools with 14 teams. Everyday we had to request the tools we needed. On an average day we had one circular saw, one cordless drill, two wood chisels, one wooden hammer, one tape measure, and one level - and eight architecture students with limited construction experience. With this tool assemblage we built a 6m x 11m timber structure 6 meters high, and erected over 1600 liniar feet of wood. Plus we built by hand, and installed, a 9m glue lam 6m, or 18 feet, in the air. We did the majority of this work in four days.

It is extrordinary that we finished. But it is still more extrordinary what we accomplished.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Goodbye Hellowood

This has been the most physical week I have had since Hurricane Ike on Grand Turk in 2008. I am cut a bruised on both arms, dropped a post on the top of my right foot, got scrapped by a post on the back of my left leg, my hands hurt, fingers swollen, legs sore, blister on my heel. I have taken three showers over the 8 days. I threw away all the t-shirts and socks I brought. They smelled from the rain and sweat. Both my shoulders hurt so bad I have not been able to sleep well for three days.

I booked an airport hotel on Travelocity for the airport shuttle, but did not realize the hotel was a spa. What a great way to end Hellowood. Last night we spent the evening in the hot tub and massage pool. Came back to the room and went to bed at 9am. No lie, I had dreams of building a 6m 10x10cm grid and we just could not get it square and had to keep taking it down and putting it up over and over.

This morning Martin and I tried to write a day by day journal of what it took to build the Alt-Cathedral. The days blur together and we worked so long that sometimes the work we did in the morning feels like it should have been the day before.

Lucas left Hungray at 6am. Martin left at 7:30am. I will be leaving in two hours.

Goodbye Hellowood.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Day 6 Hellowood

It is 3am. Just getting in from the building site. Today was long. I started at 7am. I was sore and tired yesterday. I don't even know what I am today. Hellowood is a lot of work. This morning we set more front walls and this evening our crane arrived and we set our ridge beam.

Tonight, we cut and installed the framing for the 3m deck. I am crazy tired.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Hellowood Day Five

Just got back from the building site. It is 3am. Today was a big building day. I was on the site at 7:30am to look at the work we did last night in the dark. We checked out tools at 9am, had lunch on the site and worked till 7pm dinner. Back on the site by 8pm. I also gave my lecture on the history of human evolution tonight. That started at midnight.

Now, I know what you are thinking, but no, I did not talk till 3am. After me was the the Irish fire dancers.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

and Ruin Hellowood

It has been raining for two days. On the first day, Martin, Lucas, and I walked the site and found the perfect place for our installation. It is the foundation ruin of a 16th century barn. The site Hellowood purchased to build Project Village used to be an old hamlet that was all torn down. The only visible remains was this ruin. We have cleaned it off and are incorporating the ruin in and throughout our building.  We have a great team and we are set to make progress when the weather gets good tomorrow.

Ruin bars and Roman ruins

I arrived in Budapest on Saturday and met Lucas at the hotel. Martin arrived a few hours later on Sunday. Everyone got in. We went over our plans for Hellowood, and since then have been exploring the city.

Budapest was founded as a Roman military camp and city but the name of Aquinum. The archaeological ruins can be found all over the city. What is also found today are dozens of Ruin Pubs, or bars established in vacant lots and vacant buildings.

Over the last two days we have seen a lot of both. The Aquinum Museum was built a couple years ago to house the millions of artifacts that have been found. They have a very cool visible storage area with about 100 artifacts on glass shelves. We also toured the archaeology site that has been preserved.

We have also done a pub crawl, sketching and evaluating at least seven ruin pubs. Both aspects of Budapest are intertwined into fabric.