photo adventures — the upper left-hand brick

He’d been having trouble with students who had nothing to say. At first he thought it was laziness but later it became apparent that it wasn’t.  They just couldn’t think of anything to say.

One of them, a girl with strong-lensed glasses, wanted to write a five-hundred word essay about the United States.  He was used to the sinking feeling that comes from statements like this, and suggested without disparagement that she narrow it down to just Bozeman.

When the paper came due she didn’t have it and was quite upset.  She had tried and tried but she just couldn’t think of anything to say.

It just stumped him.  Now he couldn’t think of anything to say.  A silence occurred, and then a peculiar answer:  “Narrow it down to the main street of Bozeman.”  It was a stroke of insight.

She nodded dutifully and went out.  But just before her next class she came back in real distress, tears this time, distress that had obviously been there for a long time.  She still couldn’t think of anything to say, and couldn’t understand why, if she couldn’t think of anything about all of Bozeman, she should be able to think of something about just one street.

He was furious.  “You’re not looking!” he said.  A memory came back of his own dismissal from the University for having too much to say.  For every fact there is an infinity of hypotheses.  The more you look the more you see.  She really wasn’t looking and yet somehow didn’t understand this.

He told her angrily, “Narrow it down to the front of one building on the main street of Bozeman.  The Opera House.  Start with the upper left-hand brick.”

Her eyes, behind the thick-lensed glasses, opened wide.

She came in the next class with a puzzled look and handed him a five-thousand-word essay on the front of the Opera House on the main street of Bozeman, Montana.  “I sat in the hamburger stand across the street,” she said, “and started writing about the first brick, and the second brick, and then by the third brick it all started to come and I couldn’t stop.  They thought I was crazy, and they kept kidding me, but here it all is.  I don’t understand it.”

Neither did he, but on long walks through the streets of town he thought about it and concluded she was evidently stopped with the same kind of blockage that had paralyzed him on his first day of teaching.  She was blocked because she was trying to repeat, in her writing, things she had already heard, just as on the first day he had tried to repeat things he had already decided to say.  She couldn’t think of anything to write about Bozeman because she couldn’t recall anything she had heard worth repeating.  She was strangely unaware that she could look and see freshly for herself, as she wrote, without primary regard for what had been said before.  The narrowing down to one brick destroyed the blockage because it was so obvious she had to do some original and direct seeing.

— Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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week seventy-three — aqua

ah aqua… there’s so much to love about this building. as mentioned last week, i don’t really know anything about architecture, but even i can tell that Jeanne Gang’s first skyscraper project is a masterpiece. Gang and her crew (would it have been too much to say “and her gang”?) took an incredibly unique approach to the design of aqua’s balconies, stretching them to extend by as much as 12 feet in order to give residents better views of chicago’s nearby architectural wonders and maximizing the shading of below apartments, cutting energy costs. the balconies’ unique shape also break up the wind streams coming off the lake, preventing the need for stabilizers to protect against vibrations and swaying. plus, they just look awesome.

chicago has so many wonderful buildings that i feel a little guilty singling one out as a favorite, but if pressed i’d have to give the honor to aqua. i love the motivation behind the design, and the fact that it’s so much fun to photograph doesn’t hurt either.


week seventy-two — trump

The design of the building incorporates three setback features designed to provide visual continuity with the surrounding skyline, each reflecting the height of a nearby building. The first setback, on the east side of the building, aligns with the cornice line of the Wrigley Building to the east; the second, on the west side, aligns with River Plaza to the north and with the Marina City Towers to the west. The third setback, on the east side, relates to 330 North Wabash building (formerly known as IBM Plaza). … The setbacks and rounded edges of the building combat vortex formation which may occur in the “Windy City”


one thing i regret about my time in chicago is that i never really got into architecture. it’s been on my list of hobbies/interests to take up for quite a while now, but i just never got around to it… i feel like i’m doing the city a bit of a disservice by admiring all these buildings without a deeper understanding of what went into their design and creation. i try to combat this to some extent by reading the wikipedia articles of the buildings i take pictures of. when i did this for the trump, the quote above really stuck out to me. one of the things about the chicago skyline that seems so unique is that all of the buildings seem to work together to create a complete narrative. i’ve never really had any facts to corroborate that impression, but that wikipedia excerpt lends a little credence to the theory and provides a little insight into the minds of the geniuses that built this wonderful city.


week seventy-one — hancock

i don’t have too much time left in chicago, so my photo of the week posts over the next couple months could be a little chicago-heavy as i try to offer up some sort of ode to this special city. this week’s shot, while including the entire chicago skyline, prominently displays the john hancock center. when built, the hancock was the tallest building in the world outside of new york city. it has long since lost this honor and is now only the fourth-tallest in chicago, but its proximity to the water makes  it a staple of so many chicago skyline shots.

i took this shot on a beautiful summer evening on the north ave beach pier — arguably my favorite spot in the city — shortly after sunset while chatting with a great friend. it doesn’t get much better than that…


photo adventures — a trip to toronto

it’s been a while since the last photo adventures post. i’ve been swamped with work and other obligations and haven’t been shooting nearly as much as i’d like. i started the year really strong and was going on at least one photo walk per month. ever since i got back from my iceland and faroe islands trip, though, i’ve been wrapped up in all these real world obligations like work and actuarial exams. on top of that, i’m moving back to colorado soon and every day i come up with another ten ideas of things i want to do in the chicago area before i move back. life’s hard. Read More


week seventy — graffiti alley

i’ve been pretty awful at keeping up with these photo of the week posts lately, but sometimes when you take a break you’re able to come back with a renewed vigor. i’m hoping that’s the case in this situation… along with this renewed dedication to posting weekly shots comes a website overhaul! i’ve switched from SquareSpace to WordPress, and while the conversion was quite a pain i’m optimistic that this will allow for more flexibility/customization in the future.

anyways, today’s post comes from a weekend trip Lindsay and i took to Toronto just after my birthday a couple weeks ago. i think my favorite part of the trip/city was walking through Graffiti Alley, a multi-block alley that was covered in spectacular graffiti. between Reykjavík and Toronto, i’ve seen a lot of pretty phenomenal graffiti lately. while i understand the rationale behind the Chicago spray paint law, a part of me wishes it didn’t exist so Chicago would be able to boast more of this sort of street art.

The #Buckets Mix: 05.15

music that’s straight #buckets. a monthly collaboration mix with @ScholesTackling

May has come, and with it the hope of grilling and bags on the roof, with the Chicago skyline as a backdrop. it’s still a bit cool for such shenanigans, though, so for now we’ll just have to settle for knowing that warmer weather is just around the corner.


  1. One Last Try (Addal Remix) by Ane Brun vs. Nudisorder
  2. The Last Ones Standing by Tep No
  3. Beautiful Things (Dapa Deep Remix) by Andain
  4. Burn by Mai Kino
  5. Outside (ft. Ellie Goulding) (Anevo Remix) by Calvin Harris
  6. The Cops by Vanic x K.Flay
  7. Reflections by Sunlight Project
  8. Never Sleep Alone by Kaskade
  9. Freeze Time (ft. Alice Berg) by Manse
  10. Back to Paradise (ft. Haris) (Sir Matty V & Steve Melnyk Remix) by Ferry Corsten
  11. Open Heart (ft. Lissie) (Markus Schulz Remix) by Morgan Page
  12. Super Human (ft. Asbjorn) by Andrew Bayer