Praying in Pawtucket

March 23, 2012

Back to my architectural tour! This time we’re in Pawtucket, Rhode Island and our subjects are three churches built around the turn of the previous century. Churches and mills are the largest structures in every town in Rhode Island except for Providence, and for good reason. A church or cathedral that is physically awe-inspiring has a significant affect on those that approach and enter it. I’d imagine this reaction was even greater back before the advent of skyscrapers and the relative ease of modern construction. These three churches are all within a half a mile of each other, which demonstrates how important worship was people at that time.

This is St. Mary’s Church, which was designed by James Murphy, an architect who specialized in churches and designed more than 30 churches throughout New England. This one was built in 1887.

This is St. John the Baptist Church. This is newest (build in 1925) and largest of the three churches.  It has a twin up in Montreal that was built just two years later by architect Ernest Cormier. I wonder if he charged them full price for the exact same design (minus the bell tower)?

Lastly we have St. Paul’s Church, which was build in 1901. I couldn’t find the name of the architect, but this one hides its size somewhat when viewed from the front. This was probably a result of the layout of the property more than deliberate attempt to reduce the magnitude of its appearance.


Squelch up!

March 15, 2012

Today I was talking with a friend who recently bought an oscilloscope, and the conversation reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to look up… the meaning of the squelch knob on CBs and other radios. Those of you who are too young to remember the CB (Citizen’s Band) radio craze should know that it was a phenomenon on the level of today’s text messaging. A lot of people had the CBs in their cars (usually hanging under the dash) and you gave yourself a “handle” (the equivalent of a screen name on the internet) to maintain anonymity. Today, truckers still use CBs to communicate important info (police locations  – “there’s a bear by the bridge near exit 9”).

Anyway, CBs had this Squelch knob and until today I’ve never known what it was for. It’s essentially an adjustable “mute” control. If you set the squelch to off it lets every “channel” play through the speaker, even if it’s a weak signal or just white noise. But turn up the squelch and it will only let stronger signals through to the speaker. This allows you to hear actually transmissions without all that headache-inducing static. But turn it up all too far and it will block everything but the strongest signals, which may not be desirable since you could miss a message from someone who has a weaker signal but is still discernible (and could save you from getting a speeding ticket).

Compass Creativity

March 11, 2012

SXSW is happening! South by Southwest is a music, film and interactive media show that takes place in Austin, Texas every spring. It started way back in 1987 and has expanded from a relatively small music festival (Austin is a great location since it has a strong music scene) to a massive event with 20,000 registrants that has an estimated $167 million impact on the local economy.

A number of now-famous musical acts were “discovered” as SXSW, including Hanson, John Mayer, The Polyphonic Spree and James Blunt. This year over 2,000 acts will perform at almost 100 venues trying to be next on that list. The film festival generally focuses on emerging directors, but this year started with Joss Whedon of Firefly and Buffy fame and his new film “Cabin in the Woods.”

There is also an education event, named SXSWedu, so maybe I’ll make the trip down there next year for that and for the Interactive show to further my current work. Austin is also hosting an F1 race this year in November, so it seems this city to which I’ve long wanted to visit is upping the ante to make that happen.

Angry Capsters

March 5, 2012

So I finally listened to a Missed in History podcast yesterday. It’s been a while because I’ve been enthralled in Dostoyevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov” in audiobook form (a great format for Russian literature since pronouncing the names is tricky for English speakers). The podcast was about the Lincoln assassination, but sadly there was little I didn’t already know since I watched a documentary about it a year or so ago. But in their wrap-up they mentioned Mad Hatters in a literal sense, which compelled me to look it up later.

It turns out that in 18th and 19th century England mercury was used in the production of felt that was used in the making of hats. The workers in these factories (the “hatters”) were exposed to significant quantities of the toxic substance and some suffered from dementia as a result of mercury poisoning. It was common enough that “mad as a hatter” came to be synonymous with “crazy person” during this period.

The phrase is usually associated with the character The Hatter in “Alice in Wonderland,” which was written in 1865 (Lewis Carroll never actually uses the term “Mad Hatter,” though the character is clearly insane and the Cheshire Cat refers to him as “mad”). Carroll grew up in Stockport, where hat-making was a prominent trade, so he would have very likely been aware of the phrase.

I’m going to deviate from my recent obsession with architecture to write a bit about another of my old loves… automobile design. Here’s a photo taken right after I bought my Mazda3 in 2004. I bought the car for a number of reasons… driving dynamics, perfect size (I like sedans that are just big enough to transport four adults), a high-quality interior, and solid and sporty exterior styling. The car has excellent proportions with short overhangs and nice detail work.

My favorite part of the car is highlighted above… the C-pillar (for sedans, the C-pillar is the most rearward support of the glass area, the B-pillars are between the doors, and the A-pillars frame the windshield). The C-pillar of the 3 features an extreme example of the Hofmeister kink commonly found on BMWs, which sits above the hard (for the time) “shoulder” crease that runs the length of the car, another feature I like quite a bit.