Tuesday, March 31, 2009

To LEED or not to LEED?

This has been a debate that I as an intern architect and as a sustainable individual struggle with professionally. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. There is a huge trend in the architecture industry and in related fields that pushes for sustainable design. LEED is currently the foremost standardized system that certifies buildings on various levels from silver up to platinum. And building professionals can get accreditation as a LEED professional showing they are knowledgable about the system. It is definitely a push in the right direction, but the problem is the system is not regulated enough. Many design professionals cut corners to achieve more points that in turn achieve a higher LEED certified rating. Looks great on paper, but doesn't always achieve a truly sustainable building; sometimes it is worst and more costly than without using the system. Here is an article that talks about this issue in more depth.
In the end, I am definitely someone who advocates sustainable design and a sustainable way of life, but I am not quick to jump on a bandwagon that doesn't quite perform to the best that it should. I think all architects should design sustainably without following a checklist to achieve points that may not even apply to a particular project. We should be taught these techniques in school or in the work-place, but unfortunately that isn't always the case. For now, it seems that LEED is the catalyst to achieving a sustainable built world. Hopefully with the current overhaul this year, the system will improve soon.

DRM for Audio Books?

As I drove to the bank the other day, an episode of All Things Considered on NPR caught my attention. They were discussing DRM (digital rights management), or copyrights, for audio books, as Amazon's Kindle has already implemented. This harkened me back to our first blog post, which was over the very subject of copyrighting! So, I thought I would share the story I heard on NPR with you guys. 
This again has me considering the intellectual property question. So many musicians have reaped success from file sharing. This is a way they can gain exposure, and fast. However, the strong argument against piracy is that money is being taken away from the creator(s), and rightful owners of the work. Now that we are starting to see a trend of people reading e-books or listening to them through sites like audible.com, the same questions and arguments are being raised in the publishing industry. NPR interviews several people, including an author with books on Kindle, to gain perspective on the situation.

In my opinion, regardless if you are speaking to any art form- music, literature, etc.- we should embrace the spirit of a collective intellectual property. At risk of repeating my self from my previous blog post, we as a community benefit from the sharing of art. We learn, we broaden our horizons, and we may find the inspiration needed for our own works. 

Not everything in American society need be so individualistic. 

Image from NPR.org

Monday, March 30, 2009

Shall I Review Some Wines?

The fun part of sommelier class is the tastings, of course! So here are a few that I have tried throughout the weeks and my picks of the litter:

Week One: 
1996 Etude Pinot Noir- aged, and absolutely smooth. This wine was thought to have been over the hill, but it certainly was not! It probably could have held out for another year in the bottle, but personally, I'm glad we got to drink it! Brick red in color, typical of older pinots, light, and easy to drink.

Week Two:
2004 Sbragia Cabernet Sauvignon- I'm not a big cab drinker, but this was a very nice wine. I would bring this to a nice dinner party, provided they are serving a red meat or hearty meal. It's big, but not overpowering. California grapes, so I would have expected it to be high alcohol content and really big bodied, but I would say it was closer to a medium bodied wine. 
2007 Rosemont Treminer Riesling- Australian. A very dry wine, what most people do not expect out of a riesling. This is not your typical dessert wine! I could see myself drinking this on a hot day, maybe with a light lunch. 

Week Four: We sampled eight wines and then took a test this week! I just about sloshed out of there. 
2007 Blue Eyed Boy Shiraz- Holy cow! This wine has a 16.5% alcohol content! We weren't sure how they got the ALC so high naturally. And to top it off, there is a hint of residual sugar, which is very uncommon in wines that hot. I think this is the highest ALC I've ever had. Aside from that, there are heavy notes of pepper, some of which may be attributed to how hot the wine is. Actually very good. This would HAVE to go with a very rich meat, venison, or lamb, or other big game. It would go well with a lamb stew. Do not pair with anything spicy. Be careful- two glasses and you'll be on the floor!
2003 Pesquera Tempranillo- ah, my favourite grape! This Spanish wine was delicious! Lots of tobacco on the nose and the palate. Plenty of spiciness, but a smooth finish. I would probably pair this with pork or tapas. You would need a cheese like manchego or a cheddar to off-set this wine. And a modest 13.5%! 
2004 Marques de Murrieta Rioja- Another lovely Spanish wine! Lots of leather in this one, some minerality, and definitely tastes like an old world wine. Medium bodied and very easy to drink. Again, I would pair this with some delicious jamon serrano and other cured meats. The fattier or saltier the meat, the better. The acidity will cut right through.
2001 Cogno Borolo- Wow, this wine was good. Lots of tar and roses on the nose. That may sound bad, but actually very nice. Very smooth and aging nicely. Goes for a reasonable $32 per bottle. But better yet, is the 1999 vintage we tried next! A little more tar on the nose and even smoother! Both of those could have stayed in the bottle for another five years and been just as amazing, if not  better! 

Aside from class, I've picked up a few other bottles along the way:

2007 Ludovicus Red Wine- From the Spanish vineyard Cellar PiƱol. This wine is almost identical to Times Ten's Cathedral Mountain Spanish blend. Except, this one has more granache than tempranillo grapes, and ours is the other way around. Very jammy, lots of raspberry up front, and a spicy finish. I would definitely drink this with pizza and on summer evenings. When you want a red, but don't want to feel heavy and hot after drinking it, Tempranillo and Grenache are the way to go. Best part about it? Only $10.95 at Central Market. What a steal!
Brumale Cabernet Sauvignon- We went to Arcodoro for Chad's 30th birthday dinner and picked this beauty off of their wine list. A very light Sicilian cab, extremely smooth. This would definitely be a crowd pleaser at a dinner or cocktail party. I need to find this at a retail store ASAP! 
Inwood Estates Tempranillo-Cabernet- This wine comes from a Texas vineyard out by the New Mexico border. We sell a few wines from other Texas wineries at Times Ten, and this happens to be one of them. I sampled some the other day, it was delicious! Very fruit forward, almost like the raspberry flavour in Grenache. High acidity, which I like, but others may not. The spiciness of the tempranillo grape with the earthiness of the cab. I loved it, but it goes for $40/bottle retail, so I won't be purchasing it for just some random night on the couch. 

I have only four more weeks of class, and I've already come across some other delicious wines to let you know about. More on that this coming week!

Fresh Look for Spring!

The wisteria are in full bloom, two roses have shown their brilliant pink petals on the rose bush, and the honeysuckle flowers cover my fence. Spring is here! In honor of a new season with new life, we decided to change the layout of our blog. A few more changes to come in the very near future. Hope y'all like the new look! 

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Earth Hour Tonight!

Get ready to see what a difference we can make tonight! From 830pm-930pm local time is Earth Hour. Turn off all electronic devices, that includes powering down items in standby mode. Unplug all those chargers you may have. Even if they are not charging anything, they are sucking energy out- they're called vampire devices. And, let's break out the candles! A perfect opportunity to spend a little quality time with those we love. Educate your kids about being green, dust off that guitar, or play a board game (you need several candles for this so you can see to read). Or, just sit back, have a glass of wine (which most are organic, even if they don't advertise it), and enjoy the peace. 

Here is the link to the official website so you can read up on the event before shutting your computer down. Also, posted below is the video about it.

Happy Earth Hour!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Italian "Walking Buses"

I recently read a remarkable article about children in northern Italy walking to school in large groups led by adults rather than taking the school bus or having their parents drop them off. This may not seem all that impressive, but in a world dominated by cars and other means of transportation, it is refreshing to see communities trying to change their ways. The biggest reasons for this is to fight childhood obesity, to lower car emissions, and to put kids on the right track now so that they don't become car-dependent as adults. It is also a great way for kids to connect with other students at their schools.
My family lives only 1/3 mile from my sister's elementary, but yet my mom still drives her to school for fear that someone may kidnap her. How wonderful it would be if her school organized a system like this for all the children in the neighborhood. Fortunately, there are currently U.S. cities with programs like this in California and Colorado. Hopefully this idea will spread in the near future.

Art & Architecture

My friend Sarah sent me a link from the Dallas Morning News chronicling the progress of the new Winspear Opera House and the Wyly Theatre. I am so happy to see, despite new build projects have come to a screeching halt practically across the board, that this one is still going through- and at a pretty rapid pace! Thanks, Sarah for showing me these pictures! Some of the technology going into these buildings is just amazing. Take a look at the slide show

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Add A Little Sunshine To Your Life

I found out about this darling little blog, thank you Daily Candy, called The Bright Side Project. Every day in March the author Tristan Shout Brando posts a question (i.e. "Where is the most beautiful place you have visited?" Or "What is your favourite memory as a child before the age of 10?") and an item you can win from a designer. You have a week to answer the question by posting a comment. If you're picked, you win that day's giveaway and your comment is posted on the page! So not only can you get free stuff, but you can read about uplifting and happy moments in peoples' lives. As her motto says, "Sunshine delivered daily" right to your computer! What a sweet and joyful ray in such trying and cloudy days.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Times Ten in the Observer!

We're hot, sweaty, bruised, and tired. It's threatening to rain, the air is dripping with humidity. Unbeknownst to any of us, a photographer from the Dallas Observer shows up! OMG! Where is my make up when I need it! Oh, and my hair, it's fuzzed way out- ugh! And just my luck, I show up in two of the photos. But, on the bright side, x10 was featured and shows some of the ins and outs of the bottling process. Click here to check it out!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Two Degrees of Separation from SJP!

We visited the Smithsonian's Museum of American History while on our trip to DC.  It's a wonderful museum, just renovated, I highly recommend it. At each of the entryways they have collections of various relics displayed. Some of the items were things like one of the first types of gasoline pumps, the scale that determined how much oxygen weighed, mouse traps, you name it. Chad caught a glimpse of the C3PO costume used in Return of the Jedi. Of course, he was absolutely giddy and ran over to take a picture. Lo and behold, next to C3PO, was Carrie Bradshaw's Mac that she used to write her column! Now I was the giddy one. :) So, since I saw the laptop SJP used in the show, that puts me like two degrees away from her, right? Oh, I also saw Colbert's oil painting portrait, so I guess I'm two degrees away from him too! Ha! Here's me with the Sex and the City laptop. Jealous? :)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Abandoned Detroit

The March 18th edition of Slate.com included a slideshow/article about the abandoned buildings of Detroit. These buildings are so regal yet heartbreaking. The photographer did a great job capturing the sense of loss in these now derelict edifices.

image from www.popandpolitics.com

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Poetry Via Email

We are in DC for Spring Break. And since Chad's favourite game Fallout 3 takes place in DC , I thought I would share an email I received from him one day. It pertains to culture in that it is a poem, albeit it is about a video game that he wasted hours (if not days) of his life away playing. And yes, Chad really is in charge of our youth. Enjoy!

I played Fallout 3,
for a while it was just the Wasteland and me.
hundreds of mutants slain,
thousands of bottlecaps claimed,
I was the scavenger and defender of the weak.
Far from the vault,
a fantasy I caught,
of destruction and anarchy for weeks.
But with the enclave finished,
and project purity completed,
Who will I be,
Without Fallout 3?

Chad Thomas Hannon
7th Grade Texas History Teacher
Austin Academy

Monday, March 9, 2009


The weekend of March 21st and 22nd is the Dallas Arboretum's annual ArtScape show. Come walk among the beautiful gardens, enjoy the sunshine, and check out work from local artists. Silent g imagery will be there! Booth number 38, near the Pecan Grove off the Paseo de Flores. Come look for us! Above is an image of the postcards we sent out that has all the finer details.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Times Ten Cellars 2007 Cathedral Mountain

Tempranillo, Grenache, Syrah, Cab Sauvignon, Cab Franc, UNITE! Times Ten Cellars has released it's first vintage ever from our very own vineyard in West Texas. After a minor mishap with the labeling, it's back on the shelves! Woohoo! This Spanish style blend is earthy with the spiciness that is characteristic of Spanish wines. With a hint of fruit, the taste finishes smooth and light. Great paired with tapas, Spanish cheeses, and pizza. Though still young, only bottled in November, and still undergoing a little bottleshock, it is delicious to drink now, but will be even better in six months to a year. However, even as I type, it is drinking better every day. I have hidden a bottle from myself to pull out for my 26th birthday in July. We'll see how long that lasts, since I did the hiding. :)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Tax on Miles Driven?

Here's a new concept I just recently heard about...how about paying a tax on the amount of miles you drive rather than on gas at the pump? Apparently a few European countries are implementing just that...it's called a VMT or 'vehicle miles traveled' tax. The argument is that now that cars have become more fuel efficient, the government is not getting enough money out of the current gas tax to fund maintenance and construction on our highway and road system. Even Oregon tried out this concept in 2006. They installed GPS trackers on vehicles that calculated miles driven and adjusted the tax amount at the gas pump...sounds simple enough. My only question is how would you track this for electric vehicles? Although I was first shocked to hear about this concept, I can understand the need to finance our immense infrastructure. Any thoughts?