2019: Twenty Nineteen

“And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”

– Luke 2:19

On the first day of the New Year, the Catholic church celebrates the Solemnity of Holy Mary, the Mother of God. In today’s gospel, after the shepherds proclaimed the Good News of Jesus’s birth, Mary, the mother of God, reflected on all that happened. I would like to do the same over the past year. I wish I could have done it last year, but it’s 2020, and maybe I’ll see it clearly now.

This past year has been a whirlwind of events. To be honest, the beginning of 2019 seems so far away from me. I began 2019 at home in Houston. Within in the first week, I flew on plane to Indianapolis, Indiana, or now should I say Andy-anapolis. I attended SEEK, a biannual conference for Catholic college students to grow in their faith, and seek God, as He seeks each one of us. I had listened to His voice, telling me I was good. I wanted to rest on that. I got to watch some amazing talks, listen to some amazing music as they had Needtobreathe and Matt Maher in concert, and pray and reflect on my spiritual life.

Welcome to Indianapolis, or Andy-anapolis!

Later that month, I went back to school to finish up my last semester at the University of Texas at Austin. In February, I went on a Silent Retreat. This time I understood the humility of silence, and being silent meant on a spiritual level. In March during Spring Break, I went on Austin CARITAS 2019. This inner-city mission trip hosted by the Schoenshatt University Men and the University Catholic Center, usually occurs in January, but due to World Youth Day and Schoenshatt’s involvement in that, it moved to Spring Break. It focuses on both serving the community of Austin through charities such as Central Texas Food Bank. Helping Hand Home, and the State Supported Living Center, it also focuses on forming the spiritual life of the missionaries through prayer and adoration. This is where I truly learned what being on mission meant: a pilgrimage to Heaven. I also realized that going home isn’t a bad thing as Heaven is our home.

Some picture from Austin CARITAS 2019.

During the semester I kept myself busy working towards getting a job after graduation. I had Longhorn Pep Band to keep me busy going to basketball games and rehearsal for the first half of the semester. Once basketball season ended, I had a lot more time to focus on finishing up my schoolwork. I enjoyed my last set of classes, especially classes such as my Architectural history topic, “Loos and Mies”. I also liked Engineering Professionalism, where I worked with a group to design a rain garden for an elementary school. I learned to the true meaning of hard work and teamwork, as my Engineering Professionalism group had to struggle with a team member not taking his part seriously and making the rest of us do more work. .

Longhorn Pep Band is quite fun.

In April, I staffed my last Longhorn Awakening, LA 66. It was great time to pray for others and it was a good way to finish off my involvement in Longhorn Awakening. I know it was difficult because of a sudden shutdown, but I’m glad my friends helped me feel rejuvenated and more committed to praying for the retreatants. I also staffed my last STRONG retreat. In late April, I went on the first ever University Catholic Center Senior Retreat. It was a great gathering of the seniors or anyone in the Class of 2019 who was involved with the University Catholic Center. It was good to reflect on stories, community, and figure out what the future held for each of us after graduation. I’m glad that God brought this community together throughout college.

My last family for Longhorn Awakening 66.
My last STRONG Retreat in April.

Then in late May came the big weekend: Graduation. It was everything I hoped for and more. I was so glad to be done with school. The ending was bittersweet because graduation meant I was leaving all of my friends in Austin. I enjoyed every minute of graduation, despite the struggle of attending too many ceremonies. Then it was over. I went to a small party on Memorial Day and went home to Houston.

Some of my UCC friends pose for a picture after the Cockrell School graduation
I’m showing off my graduation cap at the Baccalaureate Mass.
Here’s a picture from my 23rd birthday.

I stayed at home most of the summer, still searching for a job in my Civil Engineering field. I kept myself busy going to church frequently, working on my hobbies such as playing the piano, and applying for jobs. I did travel once to Cedar Park, near Austin, for one interview. This was my first time driving there and back in one day. It wore me out. I was freaking out on the way home driving in the evening. I drove most of the day for almost 7-8 hours, so I was very loopy and tired. I struggled to find a job until I emailed my resume to Barry Engineering one day. Shortly after that, I interviewed for an Engineer in Training position and got hired on contract for three months. I started on July 24, two months after I walked across the stage.

My interview outfit for my first job after college.

Back stepping a little, during July, my sister Jennifer and I attended Cafe Catholica at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church near the Uptown/Galleria area of Houston. This event was every Monday in July, where they had Young Adults from all over the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston gather for prayer, Mass, food, and a talk. I wasn’t able to attend every part of every week, but this led to us finding out that Epiphany of the Lord, our old home parish in Katy, had a Young Adult group. I did more research, and found out that they had bible study on Wednesdays. So, one Wednesday night in mid-July, Jennifer and I decided to make the trip. Turns out, the group decided to watch a movie, the Greatest Showman that night. That was also the night I met Tracey, my girlfriend. Jennifer and I have been attending the bible study as often as we could throughout the rest of the year, as it supported my prayer life.

I’m dressed for work.

I worked throughout the summer and fall at Barry Engineering on contract. I got an extension in late October to my contract to mid-December. I had struggled adjusting to work life, commuting over an hour round trip from West Houston to Cypress, (Barker-Cypress Road, all the way.) I had a lot to learn that I didn’t know about designing the Structural Engineering behind mostly wood and steel apartment buildings and a wedding venue. At work, I learned so much that school didn’t teach me, my boss sometime wonders at my college education and credibility. I worked hard to improve my work, and I finally got hired in December as a full-time employee. I’m glad to work there because it is a good group of people who work hard and enjoy each other.

I mustache you a question, but I’ll shave it for later.

Meanwhile, I decided to ask my friend Tracey from bible study on a date, We got coffee and talked for about four hours. Then we went on a few other dates. On December 21, I asked her to be my girlfriend or as I called it my “left-hand girl” as we are both left handed. She said Yes.

Tracey and I take a picture on New Year’s Eve.

I’m glad for all the gifts of this past year. This is not everything that happened. This past year as not been without hardships, especially struggling with going home, the decrease of involvement in my faith community, and dealing with the anxieties of time management and anxious habitual prayers. As much as my life seems great on the outside, I realize that my reflections have to start from the inside of my heart. There are many blessings that have come of this past year, as I have moved forward in life and enjoying living life. I’m very grateful for where I am. I wish the best for 2020. Happy New Year!

Happy New Year,

The Nerd of May

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Go Big or Go Home

Hello World!

I just wanna go home.

No, let me explain. The phrase “Go Big or Go Home” is meant for you to pursue your dreams and became famous and well-known in your field or go home depressed. I think that following your dreams is not wrong, but I think we all need to take a new perspective on this phrase. Going home shouldn’t be the end of the journey, a fall from grace. Going home is part of the journey, a fall back to grace.

I’m laughing off my many assignments and enjoying the moment.
Photo credit: Joanne Nguyen
Continue reading “Go Big or Go Home”

Ask Andy #2: Architecture

I can’t say how much adoring architecture became my life when I started architecture school, but the obvious evidence is in this tweet.

Basically, I liked architecture because I learned more about it. My major became my interest.  Now, that my plans changed from Architecture to Engineering, the adoration still remains. Yet I go to a more practical and problem-solving career rather than an artistic and  indescribable, I am thankful for my architecture professors for satisfying that interest. These questions pertain to architecture. Continue reading “Ask Andy #2: Architecture”

The Purpose of Ornament: A Response to “Ornament and Crime” by Adolf Loos

Hello World!

This post is based off of a reading response in old class I was in Survey II: Architectural History 1750-Present. This has been my favorite to write, and I wanted to polish it and present it to the public.  The article is “Ornament and Crime”  by Adolf Loos. As I am currently in a class about Adolf Loos and Mies Van der Rohe, and due to some recent commetary, this post needs to be updated.

The Looshaus, Alfred Loos's greatest work, has very little amounts of ornament.
The Looshaus, one of Alfred Loos’s pieces of architecture.

The article “Ornament and Crime” rejects the idea of ornament for architecture for modern times. Adolf Loos, the author and an architect, argues that he prefers the smooth and simple things over the wasteful, ornamented designs for cigarette books and shoes. Therefore, he prefers less ornament in architecture, and that is the future of architecture. There is no way to remove ornament completely, as other elements will decorate a building without directly referencing a past culture. Ornament should be used in a good amounts to portray the necessary symbolism of a building.

Frank Lloyd Wright ornament the Robie House with natural geometry.
Frank Lloyd Wright ornaments the Robie House with natural geometry.

The character of a building comes from the ornament. Certain styles of architecture have certain meanings behind them correlating to time periods. Certain types of ornament come from these styles. The modern use of these ancient forms is like in allusion in a novel to another piece of literature. In a book, referencing the Bible can portray meaning as stories of virtue, and good vs. evil. In the same way, decorating a government building with Roman temple format can evoke power and greatness that the Romans are associated with. The removal of such ornament would remove such symbolism. It is possible to create new types of ornamentation,  such as the ideas of Frank Lloyd Wright and his geometry. However, there is no way to remove ornament from already-built architecture without losing its character. Then, the building’s  meaning must either be dependent on structure and form, or it can appear bland to the eyes.

The Casa Mila has curves to look like the cliffs of Barcelona.
The Casa Mila has curves to look like the cliffs of Barcelona.

Can a building exist without ornamentation? It is impossible to create a building without some elements forming the meaning behind the design, and decorating the building. Material can be one way to decorate a building without the “ornament” of old. The colors and textures behind limestone, brick, steel and other materials add to the character of the building by themselves. Glass evokes crystals, openness, and exuberance. Textured stone represents a weathered and old appearance. The color of these materials can adorn a building with symbolism. For example, white symbolizes  purity and, gray steel is seen as sleek and futuristic. The other way a building can be decorated is by structure and form. The building can be rounded with curves such as Antonio Gaudi’s Casa Mila. The ideals of openness and freedom of expression can be associated with these curves. Another ideal can be a glass and steel grid and be based in openness, such as Mies van der Rohe’s designs. Grids enforce order in style, but glass allows such ideals to break this order. Structure can ornament a building, such as steel supports, or vertical columns. This returns to the original purpose of Greek and Roman columns, but removing the context. The use of vestigial structure can be ornament. Now the focus is on the engineering and emotion behind the building, rather than the décor and symbolism. Mies Van der Rohe’s Glass Skyscraper prototypes have no ornament, but let grids form style.

Mies Van der Rohe's Glass Skyscraper prototypes have no ornament, bit let grids form style.
Mies Van der Rohe’s Glass Skyscraper prototypes have no ornament, but let grids form style.

These ideals do not just apply to the beginning of the 20th century, but today. New ideas in engineering must be created in order to create new building forms and ways to support them. Ornament that existed before the 20th century is not often used in newer buildings. As technology increases, new ideas are being created to which form and structure is becoming more unique, and these ideas ornament a space. So is ornament dead? No, but rather new ideas are creating new ways to decorate a building. Today, older buildings that exist remain relevant because of their symbolism. We still look for meaning in new buildings, but ornament is no longer the main way to present meaning.

Should Churches be Beautiful?

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A common misconception about the Catholic church is that our churches are highly decorative and extravagant that seems to have no context in our faith. Some churches are lavish, and could be considered a waste when helping the poor could be a better payoff. Worship could happen at less cost in common places, but the extravagance is meant to set a tone. It is to describe the wonder and awe we have for God, to set a holy atmosphere and educate as a church. I will use examples in Texas, but elements can be found in different churches.

Now, churches do not have to be beautiful. I have gone to church at a school building, Mayde Creek Junior High, below, in Houston Texas. mayde_creek_3It was one of the worst architecturally appealing buildings in my opinion. The building has been recently renovated, so it looks better than before, but this example had the necessary areas for our church until we moved into our current church building, which has a modern style. My church here in Austin is not highly decorated or extremely beautiful. University Catholic Center, left, has the necessary areas for gathering, meetings, and offices.o Otherwise, the main chapel is not made of stained glass, or is extremely attractive. It has smaller details, such as skylights that make the building attractive.  In this ideal, the purpose is to serve as a church with a focus on community and use, rather than beauty. The tone is community oriented rather than just holiness.

Maybe you think churches should be highly ornamented, old-fashioned and decorative. The common style with this ideal is the Gothic. One church that is Gothic Revival is St. Mary’s Cathedral in downtown Austin, left.  DSCN1295The pointed arches, vaults, and stained glass bring back old ideas. This church can be considered a scaled-down Chartres Cathedral, a Gothic cathedral in Paris on the left. The ideal of Gothic is to portray the glory of God through intricate detail, ribbed vaults, and pointed arches. Other beautiful styles include neo-classical, and Rosco. These styles are met to be luxurious. This makes you want to see what Heaven looks like, how the glory of God shines, and the light and airness of the intangible. It sets the tone for the church to be holy place.

There are many ways you can exemplify both beauty and use. The more modern and newer churches tend to focus on use and community, while the older churches tend to have more beauty and holiness  I prefer as an architect the beautiful because it get the tone of the church being holy ground. I ironically tend to go to less attractive churches based on community on a regular basics because of the people there. What is your opinion of the beauty of the churches? I think they are beneficial to the tone, but not necessary to the use.

Architecture and Creativity

Hello World,

I am greatly sorry for the late post, I went home, and I didn’t plan for this post in advance that much. Here you go.

I love to create things. I like to exercise my creative spirit in many different ways: music, writing, poetry, Youtube videos, and art.  I fell in love with the world of architecture, as I thought it would be a successful way to express my creativity for the future.  Lately, I have been looking at many of my creative exports, and trying to understand why I create, who I am. I have noticed a lot of things, such as music and writing stories, is unfinished, low quality, and feels unsatisfying. I will explain my love of architecture, and why I first felt compelled to do it, but also understand my faults for such a career.

Centre Pompidou, Paris France
Centre Pompidou, Paris France

DSCN1298
St. Mary’s Chapel in Downtown Austin

I love architecture. It is the most versatile art form. It is a critical part of how we live, where we live, and what we do. One of the main reasons I like architecture is due to an architecture class at University of Texas, Architecture and Society, taught by Mr. Larry Speck. When I first started architecture, I thought, I can learn how to build houses, help all my friends with their dream houses, and be productive. I was wrong. It was much more than just buildings, but buildings that suit the area it was built, the people that inhabit and utilize the buildings, and the beauty behind such a building. I studied many buildings, including the Centre Pompidou in Paris, France. This colorful building was meant to be open, exposed, and show the complex character in contrast on the older surrounding buildings. Another building I actually saw and wrote about was St. Mary’s Chapel in downtown Austin. I actually decided to go to mass, and it was quite beautiful. The mass felt natural and glorious there compared to some other plainer-looking churches, in which do not have the same atmosphere.

 That class gave me first insight into how architecture affected people, and gave me a better reason to pursue architecture than just a creative way to express myself, for the people. I had other studio classes, where I was learning how to do my job as an architect, how to design, how to make buildings beautiful and useful in the real world. The problem with these studio classes was that I was not very good. It was obvious at first, but became more obvious as the year went on.

This is my Design I final model, fall semester.  The idea is for a public concert space in a building for relaxing acoustic guitar.
This is my Design I final model, fall semester. The idea is for a public concert space in a building for relaxing acoustic guitar.

I had many faults in my studio classes.  I wasn’t crafty. I could make a model, but it was not good quality. There were minor misjudgements that added up and never went away. My ideas were not very good. I could not think outside the box very much, and was not initially open to the idea of “no wrong answers, just better or worse.” Finally I could not communicate my ideas in presentation. I did put in a lot of time and effort, but it just was not making sense. I played around with different ideas without ultimately realizing what they do to the design, and communicating those ideas and their purpose was hard for me.  These faults ultimately lead for me to drop out of my second studio class, leaving me behind a year. They also made me question whether to change my major to Architecture Engineering or stay in Architecture.

I tried to understand what was so difficult about my creativity. I looked at my videos, music and other creative exports over the years, and I realize many of them are unfinished. Some of them, I even know I could never finish now because my ideas and mindset are different. I also noticed that a lot  of it was aided by computers, as that somehow made the process easier, but didn’t allow for the greatest potential final product or learning experience. In some cases, computers can be eliminated as in architecture, others not so much, as in videos. Either way, the way I expressed my creativity was made easier through overuse shortcuts to heighten the quality, but decrease the effort and experience. Otherwise, I was pretty mediocre in all  creative efforts, but I  loved and had potential in all of them.

As I go in in my major, I am now wanting to transfer see if engineering would fit my nature, as it has more rules, formulas, and right answers, compared to creativity in  architecture. Creativity in engineering comes from what you have and know, and is more systematic than architecture. Sure, it may be a bit harder and more boring, but if it fits my way of thinking better,  so be it.