An Architecture Home Companion (AHHC)

Episode 38

Where do fish go when they die?

Ethics, the study of what you do when no one is watching you. The first and last scandal involving a mayor was that of mayor switches who got a cheerleader in a family situation and then fled town. The next scandal was probably a lot worse overall and ended the office of mayor as we had always known that office.

I was 16 years old and was now an explorer (we had after all found Dead Man’s cave) of some renown. As was our wont in the summer we camped along the shores of Lake Architectless looking for new treasure and adventures.

We setup camp early one evening preparing for the next day. Our goal was to use our new snorkeling gear to explore the old town that was there before we had a lake. Luckily this time the planning lack didn’t bite us, as the Lake was an army corps of engineers’ project and they had lots of maps, plans and guides for us.

The next morning when we woke up, and headed down to the water we noticed an odd smell. It actually seemed to be coming from the lake or in particular from the area of the lake we were near. When we got close enough to the water to see the actual surface it had a slightly muddy coloration and a large number of dead fish floating on the surface. Not 10 or 12 dead fish, we had all seen that post the big annual fishing tournament. This was hundreds of dead fish, floating on the surface and frankly bloated and smelling to high heaven.



An Architecture Home Companion (AHHC)

Episode 37

The unplanned execution of a long term plan

There are a number of days you remember as a child. The day they finished the bridge to me was the most amazing day of my childhood. Not that my parents didn’t provide me with a raft of exceptional memories, they did, it was just that this was the first time in my life that I got to watch an entire planned project get implemented.

It was truly amazing.

I saw a plan on paper that became an entire structure. Sure it took longer to build things with that planning process on the end, but unlike the roads in Lake Architectless, that were at best unplanned and often had jogs and other adjustments to make them meet, this BRIDGE actually met when they brought the two pieces together.

It was as though a light was turned on in a very dark closet that I had been living in for a long time. Planning may actually be a good idea.



An Architecture Home Companion (AHHC)

Episode 36

By the way, for those of you following along at home, the Episodes are simply in the order I remember them rather than a linear order. As our town lives and dies by its great non-planning processes I suspect the randomness of the retelling order fits that.

A bridge begins on both sides of a river. They plan carefully as they build towards each other, making sure that the two ends will meet in the middle. When the bridges meet there should be no variance between the sides.

That is what all the planning was about before they actually started working. My father was very jealous of that – he wished more than anything that he could in fact do that much planning rather than running around trying to install things without any plan.

The town however, was founded on the concept of not planning which meant my father was the odd person out. The bridge was planned, but nothing else in town was. In fact one of the great joys of the corn festival parade was that it was unplanned. It started sometime around 11 am, and followed a route that may or may not contain all or even ½ of the things in the parade and the parade ended roughly at 12 noon.

Planning was for people who needed plans the Mayor’s have always said.



An Architecture Home Companion (AHHC)

Episode 35

Bridge over the river

In the summer of my 14th year on this planet, the year after we had found the long lost Dead Man’s cave and had changed the history of our town forever, they decided to build a bridge over the river that ran just west of Lake Architectless.

There was a bridge over the river now, but you had to drive 10 miles south of town to cross the river. If you were going to Lake Schafer, and who didn’t want to go to Lake Schafer? If made the trip that much longer.

Lake Schafer, or as everyone else really called it “Indiana Beach” was the summer fun destination for the people all around central and northern Indiana. Having to drive those ten extra miles in the car with the screaming children was more than the new mayor of that summer could take, so he acquired roughly 8 million dollars from the US Highway and Transportation department to build a bridge.

They began building the bridge in early June. I was amazed by the number of measurements they took to build this bridge. The amount of planning was simply something our town had never seen. My dad told me that before he came to town he had seen a lot of projects like this, well planned he called them.

Each day we rode our bikes 3 miles one way to watch the heavy machinery place huge concrete pylons into the raging river. Ok, the river really didn’t rage. In fact for the most part it just moved the 2.2. miles per hour most smaller rivers move towards the mighty White river. The White then flowed through the state capital (Indianapolis) and then to the Ohio River. Eventually the water we were watching would make it all the way from the Mississippi out to the Gulf México. Hard to imagine that however when you watched water moving at 2 miles an hour as it flowed past you slowly winding its way across the state of Indiana.

The Engineers from the Army Corps were very nice to us, showing us the bridge plans and what they were doing. We watched them as they poured concrete and measured steel girders. It was simply the most amazing summer activity we could think of.



An Architecture Home Companion (AHHC)

Episode 34

Designing a data center requires more than two permanent markets

The servers were finally moved away from the air return, one server at a time. The entire festival website was down for roughly 2 hours as the machines were moved. Tom spent the afternoon prior to moving the servers drawing lines on the floor with a red permanent market and a blue permanent marker.

The red lines were around air ducts and air returns.

The blue lines were around areas where servers could be placed

Later Tom and my dad had to put green lines showing where the power outlets were, because no one could pay attention to the signs on the wall that pointed to the power bars. Eventually they had to add signs under the existing signs (but now they had permanent markers so the signs were not in crayon). The sign said:

· Servers must be placed in blue boxes

· Servers cannot be placed in red boxes

· Green lines point to power

My dad started saying “Data center design requires more than two permanent markers.” The rest of the town simply called it the “Great Festival Meltdown.”



An Architecture Home Companion (AHHC)

Episode 33

The problem was that the data center wasn’t designed to run and cool more power consistently. We had a massive cooling system (the great freeze out). It was actually the number of fans and ducts to move the cold air into the data center. Due to space and (well there wasn’t really a plan) well space was the only considerations all the computers for the festival had been put in one corner of the data center. They were actually on top of a cold air and air-duct which reduced the amount of cold air moving into the data center. The cooling system created enough cold air to cool the data center even with the additional computers (and according to my dad another 30 or 40 beyond that). It was the unplanned placement of the servers covering an air return and an air duct that was causing the problem.

In the past they had always been moved out after sitting there for 10 days. But this time there were a number of changes…

1. Additional people in and out of the data center due to the new applications and maintaining the portal information

2. Additional computers covering air ducts

3. The window in the data center that was cracked open for the Mayor’s private internet connection.



An Architecture Home Companion (AHHC)


Episode 32

An overheated discussion

Seven days or so after the great pumpkin splat, things seemed to have settled back down in town. No one was pointing fingers and blaming people. As a judge I was actually sitting on the couch and then had gotten up to get a drink of water when the whole thing exploded, hence the initial finger of blame pointing towards me.

The Wednesday of the next week was take your kids to work day. Traditionally my father had taken both my brother and I to work in the morning and then we had taken the afternoon off and spent it fishing on the lake.

This year was a little different.

My mom dropped us off at the data center (dad had gone in early that day). We walked in the side door and heard voices talking. They were raised and seemed to be talking about a huge problem.

“too hot.” We heard as the door snicked closed behind us.

“how is that possible. The system is working perfectly…” the other voice that sounded like my dad said.

“Don’t know”

Every year for the corn festival we added a lot of computing power behind the city web site and other city systems assuming there was a lot more need for IT muscle during the festival. This was the first year that the excess computing power wasn’t removed from the data center the day after the festival. The Mayor figured that in addition to his “private” internet connection (the wire dangling from his office to the data center) he needed more “power.”



An Architecture Home Companion (AHHC)

Episode 31

Oops, continued

As a judge of the custom contest of the festival I got to be backstage which for me was a dream come true. There are three things that we learn to love early in Indiana. The first was the county fair. The second of course is Indiana Basketball. The last thing is preforming choirs. Not of course your traditional stand and deliver choirs but the kinds of choirs that included movement and singing. It was a great Indiana tradition in the winter.

But it was also a huge part of the corn festival parade. In fact, it was my favorite part of the corn festival parade. And as a costume judge, I got to be in the building where the show choir’s practices.

That was of course where the oops happened. Now to allay the fears of my readers the oops, while attributed to me for a long time, was not me.

It began as a simple Rube Goldberg device contest. A couch was moved at one corner of the warehouse (/city council room/parade assembly area). As a show choir finished up their big flourish of the two of the members ended up right where the couch was (which wouldn’t have been a problem if the couch had been where it wasn’t). This resulted in them crashing into the large corn festival float which rolled forward into the pumpkin cart which overturned sending hundreds of pumpkins flying into the room and resulting in several pumpkin injuries.

It was the first parade without the pumpkin cart.



An Architecture Home Companion (AHHC)

Episode 30


The summer corn festival in Lake Architectless is/was/remains the largest tourist event the town has. It is a great event that includes the following great activities:

· Corn Shucking contest

· Roasting Ears for all

· Installation of the new mayor

· Corn Costume Contest

· Corn Parade

· Corn Cooking Contest

When I was a really little kid I used to think that the winner of the corn shucking contest became the new mayor, but that actually only happened once. By the end of the festival week we and by we I mean my brother and I, were sick of corn. Everywhere you went in town and everything you ate that week was corn based, corn related, corn filled or corntastic. The corntastic was added to any dish that didn’t have corn but was featured in the corn festival.

My favorite event (which was thank goodness also the last event ending the corn fest) was the annual corn costume festival contest.

The goal and rules of the corn costume festival contest was quite simple. Make a costume out of the components of corn. That was the husk, the stalk and if you could figure out how, the ears. When I was a little kid I loved the corn festival corn costumes that were animal recreations. Rabbits (with their corn ears) for some reason fascinated me as an eight year old. As a young teenager I was fascinated by other types of costumes but we won’t go into those.

This year, I had been selected as the youth judge which was very exciting for me.



An Architecture Home Companion (AHHC)

Episode 29

And the No’s win the day!

It cascaded as things often do, that first no becoming a town full of no’s. Everyone started saying no about everything and at conceivable time. We became for a few days the town of Lake ArchitectNo rather than Architectless.

If our town became a Dr. Seuss book we would have been Noville or the town of no. But instead we were the town we had always been, the place that didn’t like planning. So beyond not like planning we now said no to everything.

In the old days of the town this would have ended with a mayoral decree. But everyone said no to that right away. The city council wrote a resolution but when they called for a vote they got no’s from everyone even the two council members who wrote the new law.

It was as if 30 years of pent up no’s had finally found a voice and they were going to voice their opinion! Even my mother who never really followed trends said no a few times. I suspect every muscle in the voice needs a chance to be walked.