Monday, October 6, 2008

Which Service?

On the morning of Rosh Hashana as the congregation was filing into the sanctuary, Rabbi Feldman noticed little Max standing in the foyer of the synagogue staring up at a large plaque.
It was covered with names with small American flags mounted on either side of it.
The six-year old had been staring at the plaque for some time, so the rabbi walked up, stood beside the little boy, and said quietly, 'Boker tov, Max. '

'Boker tov, Rabbi Feldman,' he replied, still focused on the plaque.
'Rabbi Feldman, what is this?' he said, pointing to the plaque.

The good Rabbi tenderly put his arm around Max's shoulder and said, 'Well son, it's a memorial to
all the young men and women who died in the service.'

Soberly, they just stood together, staring at the large plaque.

Finally, little Max, in a voice barely audible and trembling with fear asked,
'Which service, Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur?'

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

You are a virus to the world, and I hope for the day that you are no more!

I know the intention of this blog lends itself towards architecture. One could argue that architecture, being a drive that pursues the ability to set a stage for life, this is most relevant. As I’m sure many of you have not heard (as the South African news service has no integrity to report the true story), Israel swopped prisoners for the release of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. Instead of the families of the Israeli soldiers being able to rejoice in the return of their loved ones, the same privilege that was granted to the leboneese families, tonight, mothers cry over the fact that they were returned body parts of the souls that they anguished to see.

I am deeply saddened by the fact that people that I care about were returned in coffins, but what angers me is the fact that monsters like samir kantar were welcomed in ecstatic and celebrated manor; that supposed leaders who seek peace like abbas, “praised the prisoner swap and congratulated the kuntar family.” What has that society come to when murderers are celebrated as heroes?

I could write for pages of the disgust that envelopes me at this moment in the nations that surround Israel, but I think that Olmert and the father of one of the returned soldiers, Shlomo Goldwasser.

"The joys of a nation are indicative of its value-system," Olmert added. "Woe is the nation that celebrates at this hour the release of an animal that crushed the skull of an infant." Olmert

"We hope that this whole saga is behind us, I hope for the best," he said. "If hizbullah's great achievement is the release of Kuntar, who is nothing but a repulsive murderer, then I pity them." Goldwasser.

Those who celebrate the fact that dead Israeli soldiers were swopped for murderers, you are a virus to the world, and I hope for the day that you are no more!

The soldiers bodies' returned to Israel

A Brave video!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Lessons for life from the 5 stages of architecture - Part 1

Have you ever heard people say that they are “Laying down the foundations”? For what ever reason everyone (bar people working in the building industry) seems to think this is the greatest way to start any endeavour. After all, if your foundations are not suitable for what will is intended to be built, imagine the dire consequences for such bad planning.

I have a major problem with this particular saying along with the concept of starting a project with foundations. As an architect, I can tell you straight up, starting any project from the “foundation stage” is doomed for disaster.

Before I can go any further with my explanation as to why I feel this way, I need to explain the 5 stages that an architect is required by law to complete for the client, if the full fee that is agreed upon is to be paid. It is somewhat tedious, but is vital later on in the essay.

Stage 1: Definition and appraisal:

5% of the fee

The architect meets with the client and together, the scope of the project is defined. All parameters, requirements, necessities’, all the “I can’t afford, but would really like” s, dreams, aspirations, budget, and payment are considered. A brief, which forms part a legal document between the architect and client is defined, so that the architect can’t get away with putting in the 4 bedrooms, when 5 where required. Conversely, the client can’t suddenly query the architect as to why the each bedroom doesn’t have its own bathroom when it was not defined within the brief.

I guess people generally say, “so what if I want to add it in at a later stage, I’m paying right?” well yes and no. The architect gets paid a percentage of the building cost. So the building will cost the same to build with some extra features or not (this of course depends on the scope of the request), but your extra request will mean a few more days at the drawing board. So technically, you aren’t paying for it and the architect at the end of the day is doing it for free. Unfair? Absolutely, but that is my gripe with the payment system, but that is not what the article is about. My point is this, if you want a happy architect and client to love the building experience, a well defined, clear and practical brief is required.

In addition to the brief, the architect at this stage would advise the client on other consultants that are required for the proposed project; engineers, lighting experts, or any other consultant deemed necessary for the project to be a success.

Stage 2: Design Concept:

15% if the fee

In this stage, after some time of thought and planning, the architect shows the client what he was thinking. Depending on the architect, there can be little sketches, where a squiggle represents a tree, or full blown 3D renderings used to suck the client in. As I’m sure you can imagine, those renderings do cost money, so putting in such effort and expense at this stage, versus the potential gain from the project is usually weighed up.

By this stage of the project, and architect should be advising the client about the technical and functional characteristics for the project, an estimated cost, along with the anticipated programme for the entire project.

Stage 3: Design Development:

15% of the fee

This is the stage that everyone is eager to see. In stage 3, the building starts to become a planned reality. The construction of the building is defined. Coordination from the architect to gather all the information from the chosen consultants and apply the information into the drawings. The drawings are reviewed with the relevant authorities, as building carry many laws with them.

It is important to note that although this stage is where the building starts to “take shape” on paper, it is still in the design stage. Many new and exciting design possibilities come about through choice of construction method and materiality of the building.

Stage 4: Technical Documentation

40% of the fee

Here the plans are sent to the local authorities for approval. They are checked against many parameters. Regulations from fire, light, ventilation, Floor area ratios, to efficiency of soiled water removal are analysed. Now I figure that all that sounds quite technical, but truth be told, these are topics among many that are in place to ensure that the building works along national building regulations and helps ensure that the building is safe for use. Another small point of interest is that spelling errors, or text that is too small to read may result in plans not being approved.

Once the building is designed, or at least is at a stage where the overall design is complete. The architect begins to draw up the plans of how the building is to be constructed. Down to every last detail, the building is explained so that firstly, quotes can be obtained from contractors and the building can be evaluated against the initial budget.

The documentation provided by the architect in this stage allows the contractor to know exactly how the build the building. Detail drawings are given to show the exact method of connection between materials and elements. Deviation from the information provided from the architect to the contractor, or a lack of information from the architect’s side, may result in anything from legal battles to prosecution of manslaughter.

Stage 5: Contract administration and inspection

25% of the fee

Here the client has a choice. They can choose to run the project themselves, or appoint the architect to be the legal representative in all contractual work between contractors and the client. I know of many architects that will not accept a project unless they will be hired for this stage, as many issues may arise while the building process takes place, and would prefer to have some sort of control over that to prevent legal issues later.

With the completed documentation from stage 4, the architect may tender the construction to contractors and act as the appointed agent between the contractor and the client.

The architect will mike site inspections to ensure that the building is being built in accordance to the documentation provided.

Those are the 5 stages of building in terms of the architect. I guess that started getting quite technical and “unnecessary”, but you will soon see where I am going with all of this.

Back to my opening agenda: “Starting with the foundations”. As you can see, building only happens in the last stage of the mentioned five stages. A building comes about through a lot of planning and discussing. Interaction between professionals of other disciplines are required to reach a optimal design solution that is intended to be built. So does it make any sense to say that the project will start from the foundation level? No! Without prior planning, how do you know where the foundations have to be laid? Did you plan to build one storey, or ten storeys? What soil are you building on? Are simple raft foundations enough for your support, or are more complicated systems required? Assuming that you knew all these answers, foundations only happen after the site is cleared, levelled, compacted and prepared.

Another crack found in this colloquial saying is this. Foundations take 28 days to cure. That is the length that the concrete will take to harden. Once that is done you start your walls and slabs. The thing that gets me about everyone who are laying foundations in their own lives, is that it takes too long. I have friends that have been stuck in this stage for years. Never moving forward, but always pulling down what they think is a solid building. They lay the foundation to only realise later after much hard work and expense has been dedicated to a good cause, they realise that they actually need the wall to be built half a meter in and the placement of their unplanned foundation is actually unsuited to their intention. Along with this analogy of the architectural building process, the reason for this is very simple. They never started with a thorough brief. They didn’t sit down in the beginning to understand the scope of what was intended to be the goal, the finished product, the ultimate building. If one simply understands where they are intended on going with what ever the endeavour may be. Detailed plans will tell you exactly where the foundations must go, what type of foundation they must be, and you know roughly how long it will take before you can start building your walls and slabs.

So stop laying foundations, and start at stage one – the brief. Define where you want to go with your project. Write down all your dreams and aspirations. This will be your “legal documents” for you to keep your bearings in tact. Projects can easily be side tracked. So define your intention up front. You may think that this is a simple and quick process, but let me remind you that you will pay an architect 5% of the fee just for this document. So in monetary terms, if you are paying an architect R100 000 in total, R5000 is what you will pay for a brief. To the best of your ability define all aspects of what you will need for your project. As mentioned above, you can start adding in additional points that should have been included into the brief initially, but you will ultimately slow the progress, enjoyment and development of your project down to a rate that is usually seen as unproductive, and may result in an unfinished product.

Your consultants. Although we all think we do, nobody knows everything! We all have deficiencies in aspects of our lives. The smart thing to do is ask someone who is strong in the point that you lack for guidance and assistance, thus optimising your strengths, with those who surround you. Returning to our analogy, you need to look at engineers, lighting consultants, fire experts, and so on.

What is an engineer? They provide the logical/mathematical reasoning behind the architect’s intentions. A love hate relationship exists between architects and engineers, hardly ever seeing eye to eye, they fight the inner battle of dreams verse reality. A good architect can design within practical limits, while a good engineer can find reason and logic within a dreamlike problem. Your engineer should be someone who will guide you in technical aspects of your journey. How to achieve your goal on a realistic level.

Your lighting consultant: We all know the effects that bad lighting has on us. A badly lit stage at a fantastic play can ruin the performance. A badly lit office can cause headaches for the employees. Ultimate light can damage, just stare into the sun for a few minutes and you will notice the lack of sight (SIDE POINT: I’m not advocating anyone to stare into the sun so see my point). Your lighting consultant is someone who provides your inspiration. But they do so on a level that suits your particular project. They way up the intentions found in your brief and advise you on the best solution to reach your goal.

Your fire consultant: Fires are never planned, they are usually destructive, and happen at the most unsuitable time. You need someone who will set up the “in case” measures. Someone that can steer you away from potential problems in dangerous situation. Your fire consultant sees the danger zones in your grand scheme. They are not there to warm you of your potential risks and downfalls, but rather advise you on how to survive you unforeseen fire should it occur.

So who are these people in the grand scheme of things?

Your engineer would be your Mashpiah, your source of guidance in all your endeavours. Someone who looks out for the logical way for you to reach your goal, while you may be in your dreamlike state. Your Mashpiah will often tell you that this will not suffice for your intended goal. To reach your goal, your ego needs to be checked in at the door, and understand that he are coming from a point of practicality, knowledge and logic.

Your light consultant is not necessarily a person, but a way of thinking. Torah allows one to understand particular situations in a clearer and illuminated way. Too much revelation of light can cause problems. To achieve the optimum balance of harmony, one must not only indulge in one aspect of Torah, but balance learning in all aspects of Torah.

Your fire consultant is Halacha. Following Halacha, steers you clear of all your unforeseen danger zones. Its known that a large amount of Halacha is so that we can create a fence around the Law from the Torah. This fence is like the sprinkler system, or the fire escape. When you start getting too close to a point of danger, these elements are put in place by the people who know best to prevent you from being burnt.

Do you know the difference between G-d and an architect? G-d doesn’t think He is an architect. In your journey to reach any goal, G-d is the architect. The entity that sits at the top of the planning team and through consultation, on what ever level you see fit, will advise, and aid you to draw your plans to reach your ultimate goal.

Monday, June 11, 2007

I thought that my point was quite clear.

I thought that my point was quite clear. It was an almost satirical view on the subject, but I will elaborate for you. People will boycott Israel just to get everyone's back up. Personally, I feel its more of an Anti Semitic move that everyone can jump on the band wagon of, and say that its for the sake of the “boycott”. If someone feels so passionate about boycotting a country that has the right to defend themselves. like we all do against acts of terrorism, then do it properly! All the inventions, products and technologies that I mentioned are just as Israeli as humus and olives. I think it’s idiotic and hypocritical to say, we will boycott one product, but the real stuff that makes a difference to everyone’s lives, people will pretend to not know who invented and revolutionised technologies that make your life easier. I can imagine the Ignorant fool standing in front of the pickle stand not taking the Israeli brand because he is boycotting Israel, but will at the same time talk on his cell phone to his wife who is surfing the net on the latest centrino duo processor.

Simply put. If anyone will boycott Israel, I want your life to be inconvenienced. Don’t use your cell phone, computer and so on. You will then see the contribution made by Israel, and your act of stupidity based on a lack of knowledge will be to the detriment of your comfort and general way of functioning in today’s society.

Regarding your statement about Israel’s refusal to negotiate; You evidently are horribly misinformed about the situation in Israel, and more specifically with Israel’s recent past. Israel has had offers of up to 94% of the west bank and gaza. yasser afarat refused these offers. No country in the world would offer such concession, but it was done in Israel. The arabs will plead for negotiations for media coverage, but wont simply cease firing rockets from Gaza into Israel on a daily basis. When negotiations do take place, suicide bombers continue to attack. Negotiations are a 2 sided affair. Israel has done her part far beyond any call of duty to negotiate and settle the issue, but is met with attack and aggression.

I cant stand discussing topics with ignorant people, so please inform yourself with the facts before you make such ridiculous comments!

Please refer to this site as there is a wealth of knowledge about the current and historical situation in Israel.

Please also refer to Debka about the killing that I'm sure you are refering to as I'm sure you are refering to the daily missile attacks coming from Gaza (which is land that has been given in the pursuit of peace)

Sunday, June 10, 2007

If you are going to boycott Israel, do it properly!!!

With the recent boycott of Israeli goods, you have to wonder to what extreme goods should be boycotted…

I’ve always been a firm believer that if you do something, you should do it entirely, with full commitment. Don’t ever give a half hearted attempt at anything, because you at the end of the day will not achieve your desired goal, so I guess in the boycott Israel situation full force should be applied!

Now comes the next step in putting this boycott together. What are the Israeli products to boycott? I suppose people will look for the obvious stuff like pickles, olives and humus, but who are we really kidding? They have the best olives, pickles and humus. My tummy has much more of say than any political agenda that people seem to believe in because of ignorance, indoctrination and obvious misunderstanding of fact.

So I guess you should hit home with serious products, ones that would make a dent in everyone’s’ lives… So here is my proposed list:

The Cell phone. Don’t use those ridiculous modern appendages that cause way too much trouble in the world!! For those of you who don’t know, Israel is the developer of the modern cell phone.

For those of you who feel that you can’t relinquish the cell phone, I suppose you can show your boycott views by not using you voice mail. Yes Israel is the proud inventor of voice mail technology

Windows NP and XP. We all know we could do without these products. So stop using them and show Israel who is boss!

For those of you who have already taken this step, you should really go further with your boycott and refuse to use all Pentium MMX Chip technology, Pentium-4 microprocessors and Centrino processors. We all know that all the top computers are using other products (as if), so lets stop using only the most powerful chips on the market!

AOL instant messenger software..

PC anti virus software. This one we can for sure do without… All our computers must be immune to all the lurgys floating around the net.

For those of you who aren’t so brave, why don’t you boycott firewall technology?

I know I know… there are those of you out there who don’t use cell phones and computers and are in a dire need for a product to boycott, don’t worry! We can move into the medical field.

Israel developed the first fully computerized, non-radiation, diagnostic instrumentation for breast cancer. So any product that has developed from this technology should be boycotted. There is no reason why we should spot breast cancer and save lives by using Israeli technology!

Israel also invented a computerized system to ensure the proper administration of medications. Boycott this technology! Lets rather rely on humans to do so and allow for the possibility of human error to become a part of vital drug administration. We all know that discrepancies of particular drug in minute amounts are lethal, but who cares!! So long as we boycott Israel!

There is also Heart Attack Blood Tests Diagnosis by phone

“Gut Cam” – an ingestible pill video camera to diagnose cancer.

Blue-Light , skin damage free acne treatment

For those of you who are getting despondent because you have no use for cell phones, computers, or the medical profession, well we can further move onto the farming profession.

Why use a product that works with Drip Irrigation Technology for farmers that conserves water? We all know that water is a commodity that we have plenty of, so no need to conserve it right?

Solar technology? Only the greatest way to harness energy… don’t use this technology that would only make life simpler.

I reached the end of my short list… So I guess if you don’t use cell phones, computers, the medical profession, or care about the earth and the repercussions of not using sustainable technology to make a change, you probably are going to have to settle for boycotting the pickle.

Boycotting Israel would simply be your move to send the world back a couple years in developments that save lives, make the world an easier place to live in (from a technological and environmental point of view) and limit growth in South Africa itself. Educate yourself about the fact in this situation! Stop being indoctrinated by a blatantly obvious Anti Semitic news teams and learn. Not all that you see and hear on the news is true. Empower yourself to be knowledgeable. Don’t receive knowledge from one sided, radical organisations.

I hope that all of you people who choose to boycott Israel will one day need the medical technology that is flowing from Israel. Not so that it wont be available to you, as I know Israel would never hold back advances in medical and other technology to help humanity, but so that you will have to accept it with the humble pie that can only come because of your ignorance, stupidity and your lack of knowledge!


Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Rebuke Towards an Inferior Desecrator

During a conversation with Morne Pienaar outside the office, I was informed about the second studio’s new paint job. Its great to see the second years are doing things for themselves and taking initiative to change their space for the better (or so I thought). I told Morne that on one particular Wednesday, I walked into the second year studio to see the Blackboard cube that Justin and I built last year being used exactly how we envisioned it to be. Groups of students being taught on a massive board that allows the lecturer enough space to draw to their heart’s content. He then told me that unfortunately they can’t do that anymore. Perplexed at this bumper-bashing statement, I asked him what he meant by that. He then told me that “they” had painted over the cube. In a state of disbelief, I ventured down to the second year studio to see the studio walls monotonously draped with some sort of bluish grey. As the I journeyed further into the studio… I saw it.. the horror, the pain, the anguish.. My first thought was that Wits really knows how to stuff up something good. How an architecture school can deface and destroy an attempt of students to make studio an more user-friendly space surpassed me. I thought that I would have a brilliantly brutal letter to write to the head of school ranting and raving at this irrational decision (and to further add a rant and rave post onto my blog) to paint the cube. While walking to my car, I saw Sechaba, one of the second year students. He then informed me that it wasn’t actually Wits who was responsible for this tragedy, (apologies) but rather a group of second year students.

Now before I start suggesting that we hang those student tomorrow at noon, let me explain the logic behind the cube. ( ) Morne Pienaar issued a construction project last year to compile a toolbox of samples and brochures from manufacturers to learn about the materials that are available to architects. A further project was to make the studio more user-friendly. Justin and I came up with this cube. What’s better than having a dry walled structure in the studio to learn about dry walling from?. In terms of the studio project; The cube does a few things. It allows for a private space for criting, relaxing, or thinking within the unproportioned void called the second year studio. The position of the cube in the space breaks up the space visually, to allow a more comfortable space to work in. I think the perfect proof for this being a success is that the second years are working in studio, where last year one was lucky to see the odd tumbleweed run through the studio. Lastly, and this for me was the defining beneficial factor for the cube; We painted the external walls of the cube in blackboard paint. In addition to allowing the now visually separated sections of the studio to be allocated a blackboard of massive proportions, it made the cube property of the student body and not the few students that may be in the cube doing what ever they may be doing. We envisioned student being taught along this monster of a blackboard and promoting drawing and expression from student and lecturer alike. I saw Morne Pienaar’s construction tutorial lectures occurring on a regular basis against this cube. I saw students build their desk formations in relation to the cube. In my opinion, it really brought that dead space back to studio life. Justin and I further envisioned that this year’s second years learn from the precedent of the cube and build to add quality of space to the studio.

Now… the “second student paining group” have robbed that space of it’s blackboard. Its not just a colour that they have decided to change (and a putrid one at that), but the entire dynamic that blackboard set up has been removed. (Now I’m going to switch from addressing to the third person and speak directly to the person in charge of this irrational, unplanned and badly thought out move) You evidently have no planning and logic skills. An architect/architect student would have realised the benefit that such an element brought into the space. You have not only taken away a quality that students and lecturers alike may engage with, but turned something well thought out into a mere pin up board. In my eyes, an architect student would have never done something as unreasonable and perverse as you have done. To me you are nothing more than an inferior desecrator (interior decorator). The only way you could rectify your grave error is by painting that cube in it’s original blackboard paint again to restore the dynamic that it set up previously. Mark my words, that retaining that decayed “red” will kill your studio dynamic and damage any future studio culture in the second year studio.

(Back to third person) A valid point by my good friend Sechaba was this. Architects experience this all the time. Inhabitors defacing, desecrating, destroying the work and thought that architects invest into a project. People missing the point of a structure entirely is just too common. New buyers removing a beautiful framed view to add some stupid element that they happened to see in some ridiculous article praising bad architecture. I sincerely hope that you rectify your momentous mistake and repaint the blackboard. Failing which, it worries me that a student/students can be so insensitive to the benefit of design through position and intention over a shocking choice of “red”. It is now evident to me what sort of student go out to become the prostitute architects that make bad architecture.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Effect of too much awake

Eye like sand paper;
Effect of too much awake
12 AM 1 AM 2 AM 3 AM

4 AM

5 AM

Shul time…

There is an amazing increase of energy when you start the day without sleep from the night before. It could have just been the Coffee that I had before I left home, which would probably explain the extreme lack of energy at about 11 AM, but then again we were learning about bricks…

As this is the first post on _The Baal Teshuva Chronicles_ I would like to welcome you. I’m not sure where this blog is going to be heading. Possibly some poetry, artistic text, discussion, agenda, who knows?