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A dozen or so things Poirot has taught me about life

I watch a lot of different television shows, based recommendations of friends (The Wire), other architects (Modern Family, Mad Men) or my daughter (Doctor Who). But none of those shows currently matter: I have caught Poirot fever!

If you don’t know who Poirot is, he’s a Belgian sleuth, a character created by Agatha Christie. I discovered Poirot in his television form (thank goodness for Netflix) after finding one of my old Agatha Christie books and rereading it. It was the closest I’d ever get to Flaubert but I was transported back to when devoured them as a teen.

Poirot is described as:

[…]hardly more than five feet four inches but carried himself with great dignity. His head was exactly the shape of an egg, and he always perched it a little on one side. His moustache was very stiff and military.

[…]The neatness of his attire was almost incredible; I believe a speck of dust would have caused him more pain than a bullet wound. Yet this quaint dandified little man who, I was sorry to see, now limped badly, had been in his time one of the most celebrated members of the Belgian police.

He is fastidious, almost obsessive, asexual and a brilliant logician. As a character in a novel, he was fantastic but English actor David Suchet brings him to life with such authenticity and life that I have watched almost nothing but Poirot episodes for the last few months. I am falling behind on other TV shows (oh the woes of my life!).

Later this month, I’ll be talking more on Poirot but I wanted to entice you all in joining me in my Poirot fever. Here are, a dozen or so things Poirot has taught me about life:

  1. The core of the concept is simple.
  2. Be willing to take the backseat.
  3. Be empathetic but not a push over.
  4. Make sure you surround yourself with people who have a sense of humor.
  5. Do not let someone’s employment cast doubt on their character.
  6. Elegance is underrated.
  7. There are a dozen different ways to wear a proper looking mustache.
  8. A slight French (or Belgian) accent makes you sound smarter. Is it too late for me to adopt one?
  9. The bad guy always loses, even it takes a long time (the whole 60 minutes)
  10. A little bit of vanity is okay.
  11. Embrace your eccentricities.
  12. You can spend 22 years with a project and still find it exhilarating, challenging and interesting.
  13. Secrecy has its purposes.

My next post won’t be a list but it will be on Poirot! But I make no apologies, I can’t help it! I have the fever!

12 Things Architecture Has Taught Me

  1. It is slow, inversely slow to the pace of emails you’ll receive, documents you’ll have to read. As everything else gets faster, it gets harder to build and it takes more time.
  2. Making space is complicated; making good space is enormously difficult.
  3. You get better at it with time, practice really does make “almost” perfect
  4. It is addictive, an intense high, when something works and you know you hit a home run
  5. Failing is the most brutal, the evidence remains there forever.
  6. Architects are not the friendliest bunch: too competitive and insecure
  7. BB, don’t TT. Be bold and don’t twinkle toe. Wise words borrowed from my UC Berkeley professor Marvin Buchanan.
  8. Being a woman does not means I am the interior designer. Thank you vey much.
  9. Also, why is a 2×4 actually 1.5 x 3.5? Or a 2×8 is 1.5x7.25? Absurd! Give me metric any day My favorite example: There is such a thing an 13/32. In the field a carpenter refers to a 32nd as plus or minus a major fraction. For instance, 13/32 is 1/32 less than 14/32 or 7/16, so it is called “7/16 minus” and 11/32 is 1/32 more than 10/32 or 5/16, so it is called “5/16 plus.”
  10. I have to worry about birds and glass, a lot, and then there are the endangered species like red-legged frogs and the steelhead trout, and the invasive species like Cape Ivy that all influence the design and its footprint. I should not have skipped those science classes in college.
  11. If you invite architects over for dinner, don’t set a place for your kid they will be bored out of their mind.
  12. Every day the quote, “we shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us” – Winston Churchill, becomes more and more apt.
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