Archive for December 20, 2008

Celebrate Solstice!

The Winter Solstice marks the astronomical beginning of winter north of the equator.  This year the solstice occurs on December 21, 2008 at 6:04 AM CST. However, meteorological winter, as defined by the onset of winter-like weather conditions, occurs earlier in the year as one moves farther north. Here in the Upper Midwest, meteorological winter runs from December 1 to the end of February.

For those of you who may be astronomically challenged, the Winter Solstice occurs when the sun sits at its farthest apparent point south in the sky and we have the fewest number of daylight hours in the year. 

Contrary to what many people believe, the changing of the seasons is not caused by the Earth’s distance from the Sun. They are created by the 23’30” degree tilt of Earth’s axis off  a line perpendicular to the ecliptic.   This axial tilt affects how much sunlight each part of the planet receives at different times of the year. Axial tilt is difference between having seasons and not having seasons.  It is the engine that drives the hydrologic cycle – and supports life on earth. 

When the winter solstice arrives here in the northern hemisphere, the North Pole  is tilted away from the Sun as shown in the illustration below:


In ancient times the solstice marked the beginning of both longer — and leaner days. Livestock were often slaughtered to provide meat and to save fodder, so feasting was one way our ancestors celebrated  the Solstice.  Fire festivals, which evolved into the Yule Log tradition are another ancient ritual.

You’ll have to provide your own feast, but here’s a bit of Yule Log cheer to warm your Solstice:

Yule Log – The Director’s Cut

December 20, 2008 at 7:36 pm Leave a comment

Architecture’s Gone to the Dogs

A while back we posted about some nifty dog houses we’d found on the net. Far enough back  that it seemed like time for an update.  Today we’re posting about dog houses that push the limits:

In the ‘Most Whimsical” category, the winner is Tranh Pham’s Vernacular Dogitecture from the Oakland Museum’s 1999 Dog Haus:
Architecture Unleased exhibit:


Love the grass roof and wine bottle windows. This cosy canine cottage is completely captivating.

The ‘Coolest Green Dog House’ category goes to the ‘Nesting Dog’ House designed by William Pederson of the firm of Kohn, Pederson and Fox. We *heart* that it features a green roof designed for basking — not just for show.

Last month Architecture Week recognized a new facility designed for the Melboure RSPCA in their Aussie Architecture Awards. It gets our ‘Best Philanthropic Project’ award:


It consists of five two-story wings oriented east-west, each with 40 kennels. The configuration provides each dog access to daylight and outdoor views and minimizes visual and olfactory connections with other dogs, reducing the dogs’ stress and resultant barking. Black-and-white corrugated iron cladding and playfully landscaped courtyards provide visual stimulation for the dogs.

The design ensures passive solar gain and adequate shading. Underfloor heating and a passive cooling system, including thermal chimneys, “shower” (cooling) towers, wind scoops, and Venturi caps, provide efficient heating, cooling, and ventilation, with a high rate of air exchange.

Safe, green, comfortable, low-stress housing for homeless dogs — it’s a very good thing.

Our ‘Harmlessly Silly Roadside Attraction’ award goes to the Dog Bark Park Inn Bed and Breakfast in Cottonwood, Idaho.  Shaped like an enormous beagle, it provides a surprisingly quiet place to spend a night — and mannerly pets are welcome.


Hands down winner in the ‘Obscene Conspicuous Consumption’ category is this $400,000 (no, that’s not a typo) kennel being built at an exclusive estate near Cirencester in Gloucestershire, England. 


According to The Mail on Sunday:

Inside, the dogs will sleep on sheepskin-lined, temperature-controlled beds, soothe their aches in an 18in-deep spa, howl along to a £150,000 sound system and watch dog-friendly programmes on a 52-inch plasma TV.

Automatic dispensers will ensure that chilled, filtered water and deluxe dry food are always available.

The two dogs will each have a bedroom with large windows which overlook their own private playground. ‘Dog-vision’ webcams allow their owner to monitor their activity 24 hours a day, while climate control ensures they are kept warm.


There will be a sophisticated retina scanner installed at the front door to stop any other dogs getting in – something the Great Danes may view as a bit of a party pooper.

Plans for the kennel, and for an adjoining house for the dogs’ mistress, have been approved and building work is to begin at the Lower Mill Estate in the spring.

This dog house mansion estate palace may look like nothing more than a crass celebration of excessive materialism – but – the design includes an underground heat pump, geothermal heating and solar and wind power systems that provide more energy than it uses.

December 20, 2008 at 3:01 am 4 comments

Because A Dog’s Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste


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December 2008