Junior year of college is a fascinating time of transition. The exhilarating freedom of the freshman and sophomore years has passed, but the sobering proximity to the Real World faced by seniors has not yet arrived. You have a sense of your future direction, but not your exact route. You have learned enough to be intelligent, but lack the experience to have earned wisdom.View Junior Year Abroad
An account of youthful dreams for a modern-day commune in a unique, self-built domicile.View Blackwood
I shared a room in an Islington row house with another Yalie. From time to time Jacob would stay in London (which unsurprisingly was more of a happenin’ hot spot than Cambridge), and occasionally my roommate would have a friend over as well. A number of late-night confabs inevitably turned to Big Questions.
To the question “What do you want to be?”, most answers aligned with college major: English professor, investment banker, etc. Jacob’s response, however, caught my attention.
“I want to be a father,” he said.View Questions, Questions…
That needed some explanation, both back in 1991 and probably now. What I did NOT mean was that I wanted to be part of some radical 1960s free love back-to-Nature drug experiment zone. What I meant instead was just that I appreciated the communal aspects of college life, like sharing resources and having a built-in support network.View A commune?!?
We did a lot more research (London is a great town for research), poring over discussions of communes, houseshares, and alternative lifestyles—not to mention architectural books, home safety and energy-efficient manuals, and self-building guides. Self-builders claimed that the care and personal attention of building your own home meant that it would be better constructed. And of course cheaper than hiring professional builders—perhaps saving as much as 50% on construction costs. All this was encouraging, if a bit self-serving on the part of the authors.View Planning the Future
While we were researching and sounding out prospective housemates, we were also tossing around blueprint ideas. Apparently I hadn’t forgotten about the large library, use of wood and stone, or even the secret passageways—they all make an appearance. Roughly a week after we first started talking, we already had a first draft of floor plans. Knowing these plans would go through endless iterations, we labeled this initial design “Version 1”.View Initial Design
Version 2 of the communal house is basically just a re-drawing of Version 1, except this time (and from now on) using graph paper (gridlines erased here for clarity). We’re so professional! Plus, we learned that closets actually take up space, and that real architects don’t use boxes for doors in blueprints.View Second Draft
Look, walls have thickness! And we finally realized that building round walls is much trickier than building in straight lines, so the towers are now octagonal.
What else?… This version offers a basement level in addition to the ground floor and lower level.View Version 3
The letter that officially presented our floor plans and self-build concept to prospective housemates. (Although Jacob and I were calling the house “Blackwood”, we wanted the final choice of name to be a consensus decision, hence the request for suggestions here.)
…well, let's just start by saying this place needs a name. Put on your thinking caps and let us know what you come up with.View A Call to Comrades
Ah, Version 4… Not significantly different from Version 3, perhaps, but a major milestone. I think we decided that instead of a lower level and a basement below that, it was more efficient and cost-effective to build UP. So we split the previous “lower level” in two, putting half of its rooms in an expanded basement and half as a new second-story above two sides of the structure.View Version 4: The Grand Reveal
The epic story of my 1991 cross-country trek with Peter Hammond in a hand-me-down Buick Century.View The Saga of the Century
We wanted feedback—we got it! There was a Version 4.1, with a radically different layout, then Versions 5 through 7 were back to the original concept. Then there was a Type II, again with a very different L-shaped footprint.
To open a window on the thought process, here are the notes accompanying Version 5:View A Plethora of Plans
After months of wrangling different plans, it was slowly sinking in just how difficult consensus decisions were. I posted the following missive almost exactly one year after sending out the initial introductory letter:
Just when you thought it was safe to check your mailbox…
…OK, I know I’m the one who said it was time to hold off on these plans until we could have a professional compare them to a specific site, butView Reality Sets In
Besides the morass of degenerating house plans, many of us were now facing actual graduation from college. Being so rudely thrust into full-fledged adult life was pretty much the final nail in the coffin of the Blackwood commune.View What Might Have Been
For years, the best man at my wedding said he hated “The Birthday Song” and never wanted people to sing it to him. So one year we were challenged to write a new song that he couldn't complain about. Music maestro Aaron Gee-Clough composed some music, and I bashed out the lyrics.View Jacob’s Birthday Song
My friend Andrei, from Moscow School No. 45, got married in September 2007. Since his American wife's family was mostly from Massachusetts, the wedding was held in Salem. Large bride's party; smaller groom's party able to make the trip from Russia. I wanted to bring a little balance to the reception, so I toted along my 6-string and was allowed to serenade the couple with the old Russian standby Подмосковные вечера (Moscow Nights). Back in the mid-1980s, the opening bars were used by the Moscow radio station to introduce the evening news.View Translating Moscow Nights
For the engagement of Bill’s younger brother.View The Prophet
For the birth of Peter and Candace’s third child, Phoebe.View i carry your heart
I’m curious: If you were born after 1965, are you working in a field directly related to your college major?View What good is college?
Often throughout my life, I've been told that I “radiate calm” or words to that effect, which is typically a good thing. Given the recent circumstances, though, I think there is a concern I may be taking this conceit too far. More than one person has looked at me as if saying, “Shouldn't you be more distraught?” I know this because one of the first people to think so was me.View The Calm During the Storm
I'd like to thank the Academy…and all the others who have shown their support since I got my diagnosis.View Oscar Acceptance
After serving behind the scenes for two Hunts, I was eager to compete for a change. Steve Williams took up the challenge of organizing the 1989 event, which was a scavenger hunt intstead of the puzzle-centric events of previous years.
Seekers were tasked to find the following items:View Hunt 1989: Scavenger Hunt