McMansions 101: Windows

Howdy, folks! Today’s McMansions 101 is allll about windows, and not the kind owned by a huge multi-national corporation based in Redmond, WA. I’m talking about the holes we use to put light and fresh air in our houses. 

Let’s start out by talking about how people talk about windows. Most of us just know terms like “window sill” and “window pane” but it turns out there are a TON of window words. Like the columns post, I’m gonna start this one by posting a picture explaining this obscure and sometimes ridiculous jargon: 

A window doesn’t have to have a lintel over the top of it, many windows have no decoration at all. Some windows are pedimented:

Now that we’re finished with the terminology, let’s move on to the fun stuff:

Good Window Principles:

Well-designed houses tend to follow these guidelines regarding windows and their ornamentation. Like all rules, these too are flexible: 

1.) The same window styles are used across the entirety of the elevation, creating/maintaining continuity and visual order.

2.) To avoid visual clutter, only two or fewer window shapes are used across the entire facade. (The exception is if one is imitating a historical style that commonly features multiple window styles, such as Chateauesque)

3.) Windows that are located one above the other are aligned vertically. Windows (of differing sizes) are aligned horizontally by their heads and not by their bases. 

4.) Windows on the 2nd story are never larger than those on the ground level - breaking this rule results in an imbalanced and top-heavy facade. 

Good Window Ornamentation Principles

    - should fit over the window (e.g. if you were to close the shutters they would actually cover the window as intended)
    - should NOT be placed outside or set back from the window casing/trim
    - should compliment the color/style schemes of the elevation. 

Headers and Lintels: 
    - lintels are always horizontal. Curved decoration above windows are headers or arches. 
    - are structural elements used to support the weight above a window. They should be composed of sturdy materials like wood, stone, or steel. 
    - should be integrated into the wall, otherwise they risk taking on a “tacked on” appearance. 
    - Keystones should only be applied to curved headers, as they function as structural support for an arch. (NOTE: THIS RULE IS BENT A LOT AND IS GENERALLY A MINOR OFFENSE)

Generally speaking, McMansions are really, really bad at windows. Some McMansions look like they were built by someone who’s never even seen a building in real life before. 

Without further ado, let’s start with Window Wisdom #1

Window Win #1: Use the same window and trim styles across the entire elevation. 

Ok, this is SUCH an easy rule to follow, but still every friggin time, McMansions foul this up in the worst way. Like, following this rule can make a generally ugly house look pretty ok:

In the case of this house, the muntin spacing is the same for all windows, forming a cohesive style, even if there are slight variances in window groupings. (I’m choosing to be more liberal with my interpretation of shape)

 If an all-EIFS tract house can do their windows right, YOU TOO can do your windows right. 

Rules 1 and 2 often go hand in hand - houses with two or more different shapes usually have different styles as well - but sometimes a house with two basic shapes (and their variations in size and groupings) can have vastly different styles:

Seriously, it can’t get any worse than that house so let’s move on:

Window Win #2: Use no more than two different window shapes across the entire elevation.

This rule is way more flexible than the style rule, in my opinion, especially if you’re counting clerestory windows and transoms/sidelights individually. 

Still, a house with one consistent style and a couple of shapes is pretty much timeless:

But man, does shape make a difference; I mean, check this out. This house in (of course) New Jersey has one “style” of window, but the shapes are all over the place: 

Bonus points for the BS half-timbering. 

Here are two examples (courtesy of Houston, TX) of houses that blatantly break both Rule No. 1 AND Rule No. 2:

Of course, the first two rules can totally be bent. Here’s a house built in 2000 that breaks them, but is still A-OK in my book. The materials used to build this house are extremely fine. Does it have cascading gables? yeah, ok. But that is REAL stone, not a veneer. Look at how it’s not consistently the same pattern, and how interesting the texture is. Combined with the genuine stucco and the slate roof, this house is proof that a house can break some rules and still be well-done. 

Seriously, though - if you pass Rules 1 and 2 you’re most likely going to be ok. 

Window Win #3: Align your windows vertically. Align your windows horizontally via the top of the window, not the bottom. 

Kinda self-explanatory: 

99% of people follow this rule, because it makes so much damn sense. However, there is always that special 1% (the same 1% that owns all the wealth and none of the taste)


Window Win #4: The second story windows should always be the same size or smaller than the ground floor windows. 

Why? Because it implies a more stable ground. Some styles of houses, like the raised ranch or the split-level Colonial Revival popular in the 50s, despite being top-heavy styles, STILL FOLLOW THIS RULE. Seriously, implying that your house is structurally unsound should be left to the Modernists. 

Again, this is a rule followed by literally 99% of people, including most McMansions. But, again, there is always that special few:

Common Window Mistakes No. 1: Shutters

Ok, ignoring all shutter/shudder puns, seriously people are apparently unable to do their shutters properly. Either the shutters are the wrong size or they’re the wrong shape for the windows they’re attached to.

Common Window Mistakes No. 2: Headers

Headers are supposed to be part of the structure of the window/wall because before the days of decorative veneers that hide their ugliness, they were literally the only thing keeping the weight of the heavy-ass wall from crushing the living hell out of the cute little glass and wood thing. 

Headers and lintels (and I keep wanting to spell it as lentils, which I am allergic to) that are tacked on (not embedded in the wall) are a common feature of the McMansion. 

Common Window Mistakes No. 3: Transoms

A transom should never overwhelm the door or window it’s sitting above.

Here’s an example of how to transom:

And how to…not:

Well folks, that about wraps things up for this week. Stay tuned for next week’s House of the Week, this time from Encino, CA. Next Sunday’s McMansions 101: Roofs! 

Copyright Disclaimer: These pictures are screenshots taken from and are used in this post for the purposes of education, satire, and parody, consistent with 17 USC §107.

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Do you know what is surprisingly expensive? Reading strips. You know what really helps a struggling reader? Reading strips. It was going to cost over $30 to buy a class set on Amazon. Or I can break out my Cricut and for the cost of 6 sheets of card stock, I made my own class set. Tomorrow they will run through the laminator for durability.

anonymous asked:

Hello. I read the latest post about some things to consider in world building. I find it hard to integrate details (like school subjects) in the story without being out of context. Do you have any tips? Thank you :)

So I know the post said that they don’t consider a world complete without these, but that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Here’s how you should think about it:

First, you should know as much about your world as is necessary to write your story, and then a little more. The little more is so you can add richness, depth, and believability to the story. The more little details are presented about a secondary world story, the more the reader can connect with it.

On the other hand, those details don’t necessarily need to be exactly what the OP said. Don’t have schools? Don’t worry about school subjects. Instead maybe reference what a parent/grandparent/village elder/child minder/etc. taught the main character.

In that case, it’s really about thinking about what the culture finds important. Since the space race, the United States has cared a lot about math and science and so a lot of STEM classes are taught in school. On the other hand, the emphasis on classical teaching has died down so fewer people take Latin, Greek, or philosophy.

Remember that not all education is academic, though. We tend to think of it that way now because of how the modern western education system works, but courses like home ec, wood shop, and metalworking are all educational, and skills such as hunting, fishing, pottery, sewing, and building are as well. Technical skills can have just as much if not more of a place in your society’s education system (or just your character’s education) as academic skills.

Second, details like that can be incorporated in a number of ways. For education, a character could have a thought about how they wished they had learned more of x language growing up so they could have an easier time when they needed to go into that country, or they could reminisce fondly about their days studying history with their grandfather, or they could think about how their cooking lessons are coming in handy now that they’re traveling.

Third, public schools are historically relatively modern. A lot of pre-university education was up until very recently (and in some cases still) taught by parents, guardians, tutors, religious schools, or in apprenticeships. In those cases–and in the case of private schools–education would likely not be regulated and would reflect as much what that specific teacher thinks is important as what society thinks is important.

How to Choose Your College Major

Ever seen the menu at the Cheesecake Factory? It’s crazy, something like 50 pages long with over 200 items. And if you’re like me it takes forever to decide what to order: you think the Cajun Pasta sounds good until you see The Incredible Grilled Eggplant Sandwich (actual name). Then you see the Chicken Lettuce Wrap Tacos and you think “Those sound good,” until you realize it’s Sunday and you can get your Belgian Waffle Elvis style. By the time the server arrives you find yourself saying, “Can we get another minute?” and by the time the server comes back with the bread you try to buy another 30 seconds by saying to your friends, “You guys order; I’ll go last,” but even after you’ve ordered the Chicken Madeira you’re still not quite sure that you shouldn’t have gone with the Luau Salad.

Well guess what?

Choosing your college major can feel a lot like that.

Depaul has a huge list of majors and minors to choose from, for example, while the list at Rutgers is just as long. UCLA has so many to choose from (around 125) that it actually has a website for “Majors not offered at UCLA” (emphasis mine).

Psychologist Barry Schwartz, in his book The Paradox of Choice, points out that while having a few options can make us happier, having too many can be overwhelming and anxiety-inducing.

So what do you do?

Schwartz has some good advice, which I’ve adapted here for the high school senior picking a major:

1. Decide what’s most important to you. Sound impossible? It’s not, actually. Take a look at this exercise for finding your values. Once you have a list of 3-5, then:

2. Evaluate the importance of each value. Rank your top values, if possible. Also, ask yourself why you want to go to college. Are you looking to gain practical skills that will help you in a specific career? Or do you just want to learn about a lot of different things? If the latter, your major may not matter as much, and you might want to consider a school or major that offers a lot of flexibility in its curriculum, like the open curriculum at Brown.

3. Consider your options. How?

  • Order the book Do What You Are. Do the personality test at the beginning and read about the careers that correspond to your personality. This isn’t the only way to figure out what you want to do, but it’s the best and most efficient way of helping students I’ve ever found.
  • Work with a career consultant. Contact your local Elite branch for recommendations.
  • What about an online major or career quiz? Well, you can, except I’ve taken a bunch of them and have never really found a fully comprehensive one. But they can be fun! If you really want to take one, I like the one at
  • Explore the amazing database at by typing a search word like “engineer” in the box at the top right. It’s an AMAZING resource.

4. Ask yourself if your major choice will bring you closer to your top value(s). If your top value, for example, is “independence,” will the major(s) you’ve chosen be likely to facilitate that?

5. Keep exploring. How?

  • Find out which classes are required for each major. UC Santa Cruz, for example, has a clickable page that gives this info. So pick a school you like and see what your freshman year would look like. (Click here for more on why picking your college classes before you even write your college application is a good idea.)
  • Job shadow someone in a career you find interesting. This is actually easier than you think. Ask your parents, guidance counselor, and favorite teachers if they know anyone in the field you’re interested in. Ask them for that person’s email. Email that person and say, “I’m interested in potentially doing what you do for a living, but I’d love to find out more about what it’s really like. Could I perhaps chat with you on the phone for 15 minutes or, if possible, job shadow you one day? I’d really appreciate any guidance you could offer.” Simple as that. Be polite and kind. The worst that can happen is the first person you ask says “no.” If so, don’t take it personally, just find someone else to ask.

Hey, Ethan! Can you guarantee that once I do this I’ll find my dream career?

Nope. But once you’ve done all this, chances are you’ll be a little closer.

Finally, something that’ll really mess with your head:

After you graduate college, the Cheesecake Factory thing will happen again. And it may sound something like this…

WORLD: So you’ve just graduated college. What would you like to do with your life?

YOU: Um. What are my options? Can I see the menu?

WORLD: Sorry, there is no menu.

YOU: What?

WORLD: That’s right. Your options are now limitless. (Pause.) Good luck with that.

*   *   *   *   *


• Click here for Five Common Myths About Majors.

• Here’s Barry Schwartz’s TED talk on the paradox of choice.

• Because I like to offer other perspectives, here’s a counter-argument to the paradox of choice theory.

• Check out these five reasons why it doesn’t matter what you major in.


Learn British English Free: Common Acronyms

Definition of an acronym: “an abbreviation formed from the initial letters of other words and pronounced as a word”

(The)UK – (The) United Kingdom

BBC – British Broadcasting Corporation

ITV – Independent Television

NHS – National Health Service

DWP – Department for Work and Pensions

HMRC – Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs

DBS check – Disclosure and Barring Service

GCSE - General Certificate of Secondary Education

NI – National Insurance (number)

GMT – Greenwich Mean Time

BST – British Summer Time (GMT + 1)

Did I Just Waste The Last Five Years of My Life?

By @carrieeve

The time has come for me to retake the entry exam for my legal application. It’s time to dive into the books and re-learn all the useless information I’ve forgotten over the last year because they were—well, useless – which is why they’d flown out of my head in the first place.

Let me give you some back story first, though. Graduating from law school in Poland is just the beginning for us bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young pretenders. We graduate with a pretty diploma, a title and absolutely zero license to work in our chosen profession. For that, we need to get through that application, when someone experienced takes us under their wing and teaches us how to actually use the knowledge we’ve accumulated over the course of our studies. Which is fine, really. More often then not, us lawyers make decisions that directly affect the lives of our clients. It’s not just the judges or prosecutors, but bailiffs, solicitors, notaries. Our signature carries a certain weight behind it which is why I absolutely agree that we need to have as much guidance as possible before we’re certified to practice.

Continue on Loud and Alive

English collocations are “a word or phrase that is often used with another word or phrase, in a way that sounds correct to people who have spoken the language all their lives, but might not be expected from the meaning”.
Please see below for some of the most common collocations starting with “Get…”. Please leave a comment with other ones you know:
Overhaul of school system to focus on preparation for uni

The results from the national university entrance exams published last week, which saw candidates with scores as low as 1.5/20 getting a spot, has prompted the Education Ministry to consider an overhaul of secondary education, likely based on the International Baccalaureate program.

According to the new plan that is under consideration, junior high will last four years and senior high two, with greater focus in the final two years on preparation for university entrance exams.