Sunday, December 16

Holiday Like You Give A Damn

[The 2004 St. Paul Winter Carnival Ice Palace as photographed by MNkiteman.]

No matter what you're celebrating this time of year, many of us choose to express our holiday spirit by giving gifts to the people we love. Expanding on last year's short list of alternative gift ideas, here are my picks for the "Holidaze 2008". They might just bring you a little sanity and humanity during the coming hustle and bustle.

Changing the Present on Facebook | For my friend Kristin's birthday this year I sent her a virtual gift through the social networking website Facebook. Just a small image that she can display on her profile page, it's essentially a virtual expression of our real-world friendship. It cost me $1. Well now Changing the Present, whom I featured in last years Holiday Like You Give A damn, has partnered with Facebook so that your $1 gift purchase can go to a non-profit of your choice. If you're linked into Facebook, just run a search for "Changing the Present". Happy gifting!

NEED magazine | Now 4 issues strong, the quarterly NEED magazine has really come into its own since I featured it last year. The magazine proclaims "We are not out to save the world, but to tell the stories of those who are". Stephanie and Kelly Kinnunen, the creators of the magazine (and Twin Cities residents), have been doing an amazing job of it. You can watch Stephanie talk about their work here. A quick and exciting aside: issue 4, now hot off the presses, features a story on the AFHMN/ MNSLFF project in Sri Lanka and photographs by AFHMN's own Richard Koechlein.

Q-BA-MAZE | The Q-BA-MAZE is another very cool gift idea with a Minnesota connection. Andrew Comfort, the inventor of Q-BA-MAZE, studied architecture at my alma-mater, The University of Minnesota. In the same vein as Froebal Blocks and Legos, the Q-BA-MAZE is a beautifully simple set of objects designed to let the user's imagination express itself through the act of building. A gift for children of all ages, I can tell you from experience that you will likely loose hours playing with it. Andrew also writes a blog called Play and Design that features some great posts on the Q-BA-MAZE design and development process.

XO Laptop: Give One Get one | So you probably know the scoop by now: you buy two of these tiny yet robust laptops; one goes to a child in a developing country and the other gets shipped right to your doorstep. Twin Cities blogger Aaron Landry recently "gave one got one" and wrote about his first impressions of the laptop, it's definitely worth checking out if you're interested in the project. The Give One Get One program has been extended through the end of December, but after that you won't really be able to get your mittens on one of these, so act quickly.

Solar Panel Messenger Bag from Voltaic | I can't attest to the functionality of this bag, but I love the concept: 3 photovoltaic panels make it a mobile power generator designed to charge all of your electronic gadgetry while you're on the go. The bag includes a battery so that energy you've collected over the course of the day is stored and can be used to provided a constant charge, day or night. If you're in the Twin Cities metro region, get over to locally owned and operated Sunny Day Earth Solutions to check out this bag and other eco-conscious gift ideas first hand.

Smart Generosity | There are so many non-profits and great organizations out there deserving of your charity that the shear breadth of options can easily become daunting. So how to best figure out where you should donate your hard-earned cash? I think the most important thing is to choose a non-profit working towards goals that are important to you or the people you are gifting. As with any gift, the more thought you put into it, the more it will mean to both you and the receiver. If you're still looking for a place to start, NEED magazine recently published a list that has some truly unique organizations looking for your help.

Happy Holidays from Architecture for Humanity Minnesota and Blog Like You Give A Damn! See you in the New Year!

Friday, December 14

Friday Photography | Andreas Gursky

Andreas Gursky's large scale prints are some of the most expensive in the world, but he's new to me. Sometimes measuring up to 10 or 15 feet long, the thumbnails below hardly do his work justice, but I'm sold regardless.

I especially love the two shots below:

+ Listen to a podcast considering the work of Gursky here
+ More information here

Happy Friday!

Solutions Happy Hour on Friday, Dec. 14th

Over the past year we've heard from audience and presenters alike that they'd like a place to get together and continue the conversations started at previous Solutions Twin Cities events. This is a great idea.

We'd like to invite you to attend the first of many casual gatherings with this in mind. Come to meet presenters from past and future events, talk with other like-minded individuals, and enjoy an end-of-the-work-week happy hour. It'll be fun.

We'll be meeting at the 331 Club in NE Minneapolis between 5 and 8pm on Friday, December 14th (that's today). The 331 Club is located at 331 NE 13th Ave., Minneapolis, MN. Please let us know if you have any questions, we hope to see you there.

BLYGAD 2.0: Predicting the present to better design the future.

Over the course of the day I often come across 6 or 7 items that I wish I had time to write about here on BLYGAD, but I've always felt pressured by the format to only post here when I had the time to do something substantiative, which can leave this place a little on the quite side at times.

As a possible remedy for this, I've been experimenting with Tumblr lately, appropriately at And as you can see from the Tumblr archive image above, I've been having allot of fun with it (56 posts in 12 days to be exact).

I call the site BLYGAD 2.0 and the format is all over the place: images, links, videos, short editorials by yours truly, found quotes... even BLYGAD HEARTS MUSIC, where I've been throwing up a new tune just about everyday, giving the site a pretty fresh soundtrack (in my opinion).

Otherwise, much of the content has been around the intersection of probable technology and culture futures, allowing me to explore a growing thought experiment along of the lines of 'predicting the present to better design the future.' It's also proving to be something of an incubator for future posts here on 1.0.

So if you're looking for a daily dose of Blog Like You Give A Damn, head on over to BLYGAD 2.0 or subscribe to the RSS FEED and thanks for reading!

Friday, December 7

Friday Photography | National Geographic's International Photography Contest

Amazing work over at the winner's page. These are some of my favorites:

Happy Friday!

Thursday, December 6

Report from the field: Hindu Temple Charrette

AFH MN member and charrette participant Maureen Ness has this report for us:

Members of AFH MN and members of the Hindu Temple of Minnesota convened on the evening of October 12th and morning of October 13th to engage in a design charrette for a Garden of Remembrance for the burial of the icons damaged by vandalism last year. On Friday evening, AFH MN toured the temple and met with the priest to learn more about the Hindu religion and appropriate guidelines for the burial of damaged statues.

On Saturday morning, AFH MN conducted a site analysis and then broke into two design teams to develop conceptual ideas for the Garden. In addition to the burial place, the teams were asked to include a flower garden for flowers to be used in worship and a vegetable garden for food to be ate at Temple meals. The two design concepts will be presented to the Temple Executive Committee at an upcoming meeting this winter.

Thanks Maureen! Here are the two conceptual site plans the team came up with (click to see full version):

We'll keep you updated with new developments as they happen.

Tuesday, December 4

Hey there old friend...

... it's been a while. I apologize for the lack of posts lately but I've been a bit busy as of late. Here's the quick version:

Solutions Twin Cities
(my other labor of love) put together two events over the past two and a half months. The first, at the Walker Art Center, was called "Gift to Forever" and focused on how kids can get active in shaping their world. Part of that was the art-making activity you see below. Read a full report here.

The other event was the second installment of the Solutions flagship Volume serious. If I do say so myself: Wow, what a great time. The space kicked a**, the presenters were amazing, the food was delicious, the music bangin, and the drinks cheap (and for a good cause to boot!). Troy and I are wrapping up post-production this week and next - videos should be out before the new year, if not sooner. Read the full Volume 2 wrap up post here.

zAmya Theater Project reaches climax at Solutions Volume 2, 10/19/07.

In AFH:MN news, the Hindu Temple Charrette went really well. Look for a wrap up post soon. As for whats next: we're looking into a handful of possible projects overseas, have started prep work for a few in our own backyard, & are taking the first steps towards getting our own non-profit and 501c3 status. We are also eagerly anticipating the annual Search for Shelter charrette coming up in February.

On the blogging front... well, I haven't been a total slouch! I started to shake off the cobwebs last month with a little bit of guest blogging over at Brendan's blog, Where. I joined a handful of other guest bloggers much finer then myself to keep things rolling while Brendan focused his pen on NaNoMo (Hey B, if you're reading this: I'm still waiting for my autographed copy). I took over the Weekend Reading segment. My posts?

WEEK ONE: Near future urbanism: how an ubiquitous and multi-layered network might effect our urban environment.
WEEK TWO: Skyways, Snap-Shot-City, I heart Jean Nouvel, Slum Rehab in Mumbai, & 250 Million urban planners.
WEEK THREE: I ate too much turkey.
WEEK FOUR: A little shameless self-promotion: I highlight some of my favorite presenters from past Solutions events.

The whole guest blogging thing was a ton of fun and I highly recommend you check out Where, it's truly top-notch urbanism-blogging from the Windy City.

They say a month without a post means death for any blog... it's been two months and a week. So if you're still reading, thank you. There's still allot of kick left in this BLYGAD and I've got some great stuff lined up, so stay tuned.