Aug 31 2016

Hey guys, knives are sharp.

So I went out in the backyard to practice some knife throwing tonight and thought I’d try putting a bit more spin on it so I could stand closer to ten feet. And for the first time had a knife come straight back at me. Did you know bleeding gets you seen faster at the ER? Fortunately it wasn’t a bad place (left forearm outside near the elbow). So 18 stitches and a tetanus shot and I’m home before bed. Stitches come out in two weeks. I’ll be out practicing again Saturday, although carefully. So, in all seriousness, please be careful out there people. Post stitches image below (below the cut if possible, har har), pre stitches photo available on request.  Continue reading


Jan 29 2016

Shoe (castle?) has dropped

When last we spoke, I mentioned that the iconic castle at Brandeis University was at risk. Well, now we have further details of the plans by the administration recently approved by the Board.  Rather than tear down the whole thing, they’re opting to keep the parts that most tie into the marketing of the school, the A and B sections that appear so frequently in imagery, and that contain the well popularized Cholomondley’s coffeehouse. The rest they intend to tear down and replace with a modern block shaped dormitory.

Alumni interested in discussing this and in organizing a response to this may wish to join the newly formed Facebook Group. Let me know if you need an invite to join, I’m not sure.

Anyhow, I do understand the pressures. Students want modern dorms with A/C and efficient working heat. ADA compliance is a beautiful thing. Safety is important. Residential students bring in more revenue. But here’s the thing: In the past decade (so, recently in college evolution terms) they knocked down the cottages and the Ridgewood dorms and rebuilt very large modern facilities in their place, so I’m not sure how much pressure there actually is for more beds. I know there’s a growing international population that drives some of the demand for residential facilities. But I do actually think that safety and energy efficiency are the bigger drivers. I think if not for these there’d be no debate. But faced with this, I do acknowledge the compromises of the current plan. It is always cheaper to knock down an old building and start from scratch than it is to rehabilitate an old structure. Building new gives lots of opportunities that just can’t be done effectively with old structures. The Castle is a study in inefficient use of space.

But it’s a castle. It’s not supposed to be an efficient use of space. And too much of the campus already was, or has recently been turned into, unappealing blocks. The Castle is a refreshingly organic (so to speak) and culturally unique object. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places. The administration recognizes this and is trying to preserve what they see as the parts that most embody that legacy. Sadly, the parts are very much less than the whole.  At the same time, they’ve had scaffolding and safety netting up and all over the whole thing for a year or two now, fully selling to everyone the fact or image of the building as structurally unsound and falling apart on a daily basis. A current editorial in the Justice carries the perspective of at least one student.

So, the Castle is unsafe. It’s inefficient. Fixing it while retaining the exterior and they layout is expensive, especially doing it right and not just slapping some patches up. With the new dorms in place, the school can afford to close down the Castle as a dorm while they address the issue. Now is the time. So alumni and students who want to influence the plan need to vote with their dollars, both earmarking any current donations for preserving the Castle exterior in its entirety, and reminding the administration that alumni dollars are a long term value, whereas the cost of reconstruction is a short term one. I have no idea if that’ll work at all, and I’m at least content that the administration is in fact trying to do its best given the needs and limitations it has, and isn’t just bulldozing the entire structure.

References

  • http://www.brandeis.edu/castle-project/about.html
  • http://www.thejustice.org/article/2016/01/castle-to-be-torn-down
  • http://www.postalstampart.com/product/Brandeis_University_Usen_Castle_1st_Day_Cover_Usen_Castle_Stamp
  • http://www.ebay.in/itm/USA-MINT-POSTCARD-USEN-CASTLE-/172069546601
  • http://www.schoolneedlepoint.com/
  • https://www.facebook.com/groups/201962490156975/
  • http://www.brandeis.edu/studentlife/dcl/tour/village.html
  • http://www.brandeis.edu/studentlife/dcl/tour/ridgewood.html
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Castle_%28Waltham,_Massachusetts%29
  • https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/01/27/beloved-brandeis-dorm-will-longer-castle/oQOg2wMXFenXR3gWlneEeM/story.html
  • http://www.thejustice.org/article/2016/01/editorial-commend-university-decision-on-usen-castle

 


Nov 6 2015

We have a castle?

Attention Brandeis Alumni (and others):

In recent news, it has come to my attention that the administration of Brandeis University is proposing to tear down Usen Castle. They say it is old, it is falling apart, it is unsafe, and it is inefficient. See http://www.thejustice.org/article/2015/11/trustees-to-decide-on-future-of-castle for a recent article on the debate. It is well known for its bizarre architectural elements (see http://allthetropes.wikia.com/wiki/Bizarrchitecture and http://www.brandeis.edu/studentlife/dcl/roomselection/images/UsenCastle.pdf)

That may be. But it is also historic (National Registry as of 1979), iconic, and emblematic. It is the one thing, other than the university seal, that appears most on paraphernalia and imagery. When the Post Office issued a stamp in honor of the school’s 50th anniversary, it was the thing pictured on the stamp. Still listed as a popular dorm, you can see more and read more at http://omeka.lts.brandeis.edu/exhibits/show/photographs-of-the-castle-from .

For those of you in the SCA, it should be no surprise that there was a tradition of using the castle in various ways – meetings, inspiration for arms, the odd strawberry war with another borough, etc.

For those of you with ties to the BSCF, this was more or less where the club started, where many many meetings and movie nights were held, and where many many larps took place over the years.

For those of you curious about academic history, this building predates Brandeis and was the main building of the old Middlesex University (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middlesex_University_(Massachusetts)) an old medical college, and the only veterinary college in New England, until Tufts in 1978.

For those of you with memories of 90’s television, the coffee shop there is widely considered the inspiration for Central Perk in the TV show Friends.

Abbie Hoffman and Angela Davis spent time there engaged in political discourse.

In short, if you have a relevant connection to the place, and if you have an opinion on its future, now is the time to make your opinions known to those who are making decisions about it.


Aug 23 2015

Free bookcases.

We’re trimming back the book collection and with it the bookcases. This is in preparation for moving J from his current room into what is at the moment our library and guest room. He’s three now and graduating to a big boy room and a big boy bed. But this means we now have a couple of empty bookcases as books have been moved into deep storage.

So, could anyone use a bookcase or two? Let me know, and I,d be glad to take pictures or send descriptions.