Back to the Cartography Board

#ArchiTalks is a monthly series where 50 wanna-be bloggers, and Bob Borson, all write on the same topic on the same day. I always get excited for the next month’s topic, as each topic becomes an invigorating creativity problem. I consistently want to relate the topic to the benefits of architecture or design, and I treat every topic like those 3rd grade art projects – where every classmate gets the same piece of (photocopied) paper with identical squiggly marks as a starting point – and then all the students use their creativity to expound upon the squiggles to create a unique drawing.

When providing the topic for every #ArchiTalks post, Bob always lists his “Bob’s a Meanie Rules”, but this time he added the caveat:

“Back to School” seems like a topic that doesn’t need any explanation, but if you would like any elaboration, please let me know and I’ll write something up for you. I think all of these themes allow for some broad interpretation but as a reminder, if you do decide to participate, please keep your post on topic.

“Please keep your post on topic!” Great! I feel like the photocopied piece of paper is a squiggly drawing of ‘half a tree.’ Every other architecture blogger will use their “creativity” to draw a completed tree. But I wanted to turn the paper upside down and draw a fluorescent pink alligator wearing flip-flops and has Skittles instead of teeth.

One would assume there is diversity within the profession, and an amalgamation of architectural bloggers with disparate perspectives will offer freshness to each new topic. But ‘Back to School’ has reduced our black-spectacled architectural blogger group into a generic stew of ‘Mommy Bloggers’ because they all (probably) contain the same scripts – “Life Lessons from Architecture School” or else they are actual Mommy (or Daddy) bloggers and are truly excited for their little tykes to enter into 2nd Grade.

Accordingly, instead of blogs about architecture – most single-perspective ‘architect’ blogs are just personal blogs written by architects. I am no exception. But I don’t have a child. I have a cat. And my cat doesn’t need to go to school, because she’s already a savant cat-prodigy. How am I supposed to stay on topic – when I only want to talk about my cat?

My other pet project (no pun intended) is my Instagram feed of my cat. My username is unphotogenic cat, and all I ever post are pictures of my cat. I must admit, I don’t totally comprehend Instagram. My brother always posts amazing Instagram pictures and provides illuminating hashtags such as #architecturealliteration. I only post dumb photos of my cat with incomprehensible hashtags such as #whenitakeapictureofmycatyawningshelooksferocious or #thatsnotpenicillinormoldmyfluffycatisjustinthefridge.

Until the other day when I actually took this photo.

brady ernst cat

I know. Incredible isn’t it. I am expecting tons of awards, and proclamations such as “The Mona Lisa of the Cat World.” It’s like you strive for something your whole life, and even create a whole mystique around an unphotogenic cat, and then your life becomes complete. I have nothing left to conquer, all of my dreams have been fulfilled.

What is Your Prehistoric Power Animal

But back to the original topic. What if instead of relating the topic of ‘Back to School’ about architecture, I just talk about my cat and rant about the topic of ‘Back to School’ for another 800 words? Is that staying on topic?

Instead of ‘Back to School’, alternative topics with unique outcomes could have been:

Things I discovered in the bushes,
Bubble Water,
What prehistoric animal have I been reincarnated from?

I have no clue where these topics would go!

Except, of course, my prehistoric power animal would have to be the Bradysaurus.
What was a Bradysaurus you ask? Well, it was basically a slow, clumsy, over-sized cow.
Pronounced: brady-SAWR-us
Literally: ‘slow lizard’

Wait. I know that the suffix -saurus means lizard.
So… Brady means slow!
I’m sure you already reached that conclusion two sentences ago, but it took me a little while longer – because, well… my moniker.

(Brady in Greek: slow, slowness; delayed, tardy; a prefix used in the sense of being “abnormally slow”)

Therefore, the same day I achieved my greatest accomplishment in life by taking the best cat picture ever, I also received the worst news. I am slow. And not just slow, but abnormally slow – like I need a special care-provider to properly operate the microwave slow.

Why couldn’t I have been named after the Velociraptor – I want to be a ‘swift seizer’.

Does Writing about Architecture Improve Architecture

Instead of staying on topic, this news has sent me into a depressingly slow tail-spin to find purpose in life.

Malcom Gladwell’s recent Revisionist History podcast discussed that political satire and political comedy actually don’t sway or inform public opinion.

Therefore, I have to wonder, does writing about architecture actually move the needle to create value within the profession? Or are we just just political satirists, thinking we are being creative intellects, yet are only reinforcing our own ideals.

Furthermore, is a blog just a personal journal left open on the kitchen table for your family members to read? Every blog post I write, I personally think that I’m going to dazzle the interwebs with my insane talent. “Oh. How creative, funny, and original Brady is.” Or “have you read the soapboxarchitect blog? It’s my favorite!” Except the only people to have commented on any of my blog topics in the past two months have been my brother and my father. But at least I know now that Red Loctite is stronger than Blue Loctite when applied to bolts – thanks Dad!

Yep. I’m really getting my original ideas through to the masses!

Back to the Cartography Board

Again. Back on topic…
I was originally going to analyze the etymology of the phrase ‘Back to School’
Whereas, most phrases with the word ‘back’ symbolize starting over: ‘Back to the Drawing Board’, ‘Back to Square one’, or even ‘Back to the Future’. My cat just walked across my keyboard, and pressed the keys Alt+Back Arrow and it apparently takes you back to the previous web page.

However, the phrase ‘Back to Work’ means back to the “daily grind.” No newness, just sameness – back to the same. Whereas, ‘Back to School’ lives in a tangential world to both of these ‘Back’ definitions – it means “Back to Familiarity, yet progressing forward, while starting anew.”

Unfortunately, I never had time to finish these deeply philosophical thoughts – probably because I became depressed when I realized I was slow. But to fair, I’m sure the Bradysaurus had poor time management skills as well.

If only I could go ‘Back in Time’. I would definitely have gotten this blog post done.

Actually, if I could go back in time – why would I waste my time writing a blog post. I always thought that if I lived in the 18th century I would either be a naturalist or a cartographer. Except I have horrible observation skills, and would’ve been a dismal naturalist. I would have been drawing 1 bird, and missed the other 400 specimens. Thus, I should go back in time and be a cartographer – because maps are mesmerizing. Not only did cartographers draw maps of the existing world, but all maps are skewed toward what they imagined the world to be. Architects, are kind of like modern day cartographers, we create maps of houses, buildings, and city master-plans of what we want the built environment to become.

So to exhibit my current cartography skills, I wasted an insane amount of time geographically locating every #ArchiTalks blogger. I wanted to analyze any correlated data based upon geographical location. Are there underlying themes in the posts of Texas architects? Do Charleston bloggers contribute to blogs more frequently? Am I too isolated up in Montana – which leads to long personal rants about cartography, dinosaurs, and cats without any positive outcomes?

In conclusion, there are many great architectural bloggers that contribute meaningful #ArchiTalks posts – while staying on topic. I have had the opportunity to contribute to the last 10 #ArchiTalks posts, (I’ve written 8 posts) and I charted the number of contributions for every other #ArchiTalks blogger for the same last 10 topics. It might be unfair for the most recent bloggers – but please select a geographic region, or select the most frequent contributors, or select a random dot – and find the respective link at the bottom of this post to read their take on ‘Back to School’.

Map Notes:
Click here to load a map with a magnifying glass for the overlapping dots.
Also, Nisha Kandiah and Anthony Richardson are actually Australian bloggers, but Google already inaccurately scaled Alaska – so I also don’t care.


This post is part of the #ArchiTalks series in which the multi-faceted architect Bob Borson, of Life of an Architect, selects a theme and a group of us other (architectural) bloggers all post on the same day, on the same topic. This month’s theme is Back to School.

Enoch Sears – Business of Architecture (@businessofarch)
Back to School!

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
I Wish I were going Back to School

Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
Designing Back to School

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
ArchiTalks: “Back To School”

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
What Have We Learned? It’s Back To School For #ArchiTalks 21

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
good to go back to school

Mark R. LePage – EntreArchitect (@EntreArchitect)
Back to School: Marketing for Architects

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
4 Tips As You Go Back To School

Cormac Phalen – Cormac Phalen (@archy_type)
Back to School Again

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
#architalks 21 “back to school”

Michael Riscica – Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
Let’s Get Back To (Architect) School …or Work.

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Back to School

Michael LaValley – Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
#ArchiTalks / 15 Ways to Make the Most of Your Architectural Education

Eric Wittman – intern[life] (@rico_w)
getting [schooled] again

Sharon George – Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
What’s better than architecture after school?

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
Back to {Architecture} School

Drew Paul Bell – Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
Back to School…Suckasssssss

Kyu Young Kim – Palo Alto Design Studio (@sokokyu)
Back to School: Seoul Studio

Jared W. Smith – Architect OWL (@ArchitectOWL)
Back to School…

Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign)

Adam Denais – Defragging Architecture (@DefragArch)
[ArchiTalks #21] 10 Things Architecture Students Say Going Back to School

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Back to School? It Doesn’t Stop there for Architects.

Tim Ung – Journey of an Architect (@timothy_ung)
10 Things I wish I knew about Architecture School


  1. michele grace hottel

    brady, how could i not comment on your article!!! i am sure my mom would comment on mine too but she hasn’t figured out how yet :) i like the geographcally located blogger map, but at first i thought i was really far south and then i realized that wasn’t me, that is hawaii! i wonder if leonardo (da vinci, not di caprio) drew his cat??? so much to ponder!!! thanks brady!!!

    • brady ernst

      Thanks Michele.
      And yes. Da Vinci often drew his cat as the ideal proportioned specimen. But just like my tribulations – he could never quite capture the innate essence of the creature.

  2. this post was awesome for the ArchiTalks blogger map as a demonstration of your “almost” awesome” cartography skills (Australia/Alaska – whatever)

    For the record, my stay on topic meanie rules has more to do with not wanting others to abuse the platform (and the other participants who link to their articles) by turning their posts into direct marketing ads for t-shirts, conferences, webinars and ARE study guides.

    • brady ernst

      I like the nickname. But to be fair, it’s probably better than Bob “Dunce-cap” Borson.

      If Google doesn’t care about representative size – why should I care about representative shape?
      But to be (relatively) accurate – if one were to squish the shape of Alaska into an Australia-shaped cookie cutter, I did attempt to locate the 2 dots in their respective geographic areas.

      And a DIRECT MARKETING SITE FOR T-SHIRTS!!! Ugh. I’ve been wasting my time coding purple dots onto a geographic map of the U.S.A. when I could’ve been monetizing this site. Thanks for the killer tip for next month’s post.

  3. Brady.

    this.. This post was phenomenal. I just really don’t have words.

    I was laughing out loud (non of this LOL stuff). I really loved it all. Your cat’s photo is basically a masterpiece and the map of the ArchiTalkers is really clever and fun.


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