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Last updated 7/5/2008

Hi, I'm Jason. My full name is Jason Robert Carroll. "Robert" is after my grandfather, who I'm proud to have as part of my name. is my hiding place in plain sight. This site is primarily a way to remember myself--to always remain cognizant of selected events and ideas I hold dear. It is by no means comprehensive; in fact I would say that about 90% of my life goes undocumented. Nonetheless, there is much more information about me here than will likely interest you, so please, feel free to ignore. If you see some common threads, it's because the things in which I am generally interested lie somewhere inside this mess:

  • The beauty of the world--order within chaos; the relationships between the physical world, society, culture and human theoretical constructs (for example: love, economics, god, beauty, etc.);
  • Social justice, human compassion, equity;
  • Enterprise;
  • Simplicity;
  • Meaningful discourse and critical thought;
  • Randomness;
  • Constant exploration, creative process, design--and in particular a love for geometry;
  • Stewardship of the natural and built environments, place-making;
  • A strong disdain for the apparent fickleness and materiality bolstered by 21st Century popular culture;
  • And playing, which is most important of all.

Equal? No. Certainly not in order. Enough to make me perpetually unable to rest.

Family self-take at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens.A snapshot of my current state of affairs might go like this: Madly in love with my wife Rose and our two little offspring, Max (5) & Esmé (2), who refer to themselves as "kitty cat" and "bunny" respectively. Wow, four of us now, only used to be two--but now the four feels the same as the two--what a thought that is! I feel like I'm swimming in the deep water that is being together as a family, playing, discovering, hanging out, growing, laughing, getting angry sometimes. Max is beautifully intense. Esmé is a delicious sweetheart. I'm still dumbfounded them both every day--the things they do, their emerging personalities, their little (rapidly) growing bodies. The world is new to them…there could be no better way to exist. The lack of social context, bias and prejudice, the ability to see things without preconceived notions of what they are--what a wonderful gift young humans are given! The struggle to hold on to this purity of thought should be a lifelong goal.

I give most of my mental and emotional energy to my family, as it should be. This leads to my next thought: the struggle of pushing forward with personal goals, personal and professional interests while keeping family first priority. It's difficult, perhaps doubly so for Rose, who stays at home with the kids. For me, the only part of the personal-family-professional balancing act that is not difficult is the act of being a provider. Something instinctual drivers a person to work hard, protect and provide for a family. Doing this while still living a self-actualized life (i.e., pursuing and achieving personal goals) is the true challenge. Of course now many of my personal goals now specifically relate to my children and my wife--all of us as a family--so that does make it somewhat easier.

Professionally, I was trained as an architect, and practiced for a bit over four years before returning to business school. After an intense two years of study, I began managing projects for a national real estate developer. The next thing I knew I was recruited by a private real estate firm to run their acquisitions business. So I've evolved from a designer to a capital transactions professional--quite different from the path I would have expected had you discussed the matter with me in 1996.

Through it all, I still consider myself an architect-at-heart, particularly when considering the way I solve problems (a synthesis approach involving visual thinking). My personal definition of what it means to be an architect constantly evolves; the term has a much broader meaning for me, perhaps, than for some.


A part of me, and a part of Rose, our souls together, will always walk along Via del Corso in Florence.

I am an espresso fanatic; I can pull a mean shot and make a near-perfect latte. Other diversions I enjoy include photography, roadtrippin' (a very important part of my life with Rose), collecting and appreciating fine art by lesser-known artists, computers and technology (and gadgetry!), reading, sculpture (though not for years now), and filling my sketchbook with seemingly random images and words. (Later, I go back and try to comprehend what, if anything, those images and words mean.)

I was born four years prior to the official introduction of the Atari 2600. I spend a lot of time remembering my glory days in the video arcades of the early Eighties. I still play a lot of video games (if I can keep myself awake after reading the kids to sleep).

I am a tweaker.

I believe very strongly in Living Below Your Means, and I tend to have a Millionaire Next Door attitude toward wealth-building.

I have a strong tendency to take the long way home. The shortest distance between two points is usually of little interest to me.

If I see you staring up at skyscrapers in a city, I'll think well of you. If you still stare at them after living in that city for five years, then I'll know you are a person whose eyes are not closed.

Psychological Type, based on the theories of Carl Jung and Isabel Briggs Myers; My type: iNTj (alt.); Rose's Type: eNFp (alt.). Max & Esmé...?


The following is a list of some formative events in my life:

Year 0: Born (March 1, 1973).

Years 1-6: When I think about the incredible joy and richness of experience my children give me at these ages, I find it amazing that I don't remember more about my own life in these formative years. I guess that's what photographs are for...

Year 7: I didn't win the remote-controlled car race in my second grade class...

When I was 8, I cut a large hole in a wall in my house because I wanted to understand what was inside. (For some reason, I also thought that the switch-track piece to my model railroad set was lost in there.) I was so proud of this hole that my father could not bring himself to punish me for the property damage. This set within me the mindset that "it's okay to cut large holes in things," a theory that I still hold to today.

When I was 9, I discovered video games. Bliss!

When I was 11, it was 1984. This was a particularly good year for me. I was in fifth grade. I wrote my first computer program on an Apple IIe. Epiphany! My teacher was Ms. McKleveen. She was an airplane pilot, knew a lot about computers and read "A Wrinkle in Time" to us. Mighty Orbots, the best cartoon ever, was on ABC Saturday mornings. I made every effort to spend as much time as possible in the arcades. That year, I had two very good friends: Patrick Hancy and David Butler.

Between the ages of 12 and 14, my parents cut my hair, rather than letting a barber or "stylist" do it (seemed like a good idea at the time) and I didn't pay any attention to the clothes I wore. This did not bode well for my popularity ranking in junior high school. I didn't realize that being popular was something to which I should pay attention--I was too busy having fun with my Commodre 64. Late bloomer I guess.

When I was 15, my parents left a Baptist church that was full of hypocrisy and gossip. This permanently rooted my respect for my parents, and encouraged me to continue down the path toward free thought.

When I was 16, I got a cool haircut and started paying attention to the clothes I wore. As a result, I became "popular" my sophomore year in high school. I ditched the friends with whom I used to play video games, write computer programs and enter math competitions and concentrated on being part of the desirable social crowd.

By age 17, my junior year of high school, I realized what a mistake I had made by wanting to be popular. I was popular, but I hated all those shallow people. I hated the fact that they weren't passionate about anything. However, the friends I had abandoned the previous year were no longer accessible to me. I couldn't go back, and I didn't want to stay where I was. So I started over, and let my friends, interests and passions grow again--this time organically, naturally, from scratch. I have generally been happy most of the time since then.

Between the ages of late 15 and early 18 I spent a lot of time in the Art Room at my high school. This was my salvation, in so many ways. You see, my high school had quite a fundamentalist, strict, religious atmosphere--needless to say it didn't have a natural tendency to foster creativity and free thought. The Art Room was a sanctuary, guarded by the wise Mrs. Olsen, where the misunderstood could find solace and feel free to create and think. During this time I exchanged my interest in physics for an interest in art.

At 19, I entered architecture school with a cocky attitude and a sense that I could do anything. I was quickly put in my place by people who were much more talented than I. Once I calmed down, I realized that I was in the right place.

When I was 21 I went to Europe. I lived in Florence, Italy for half a year in a little apartment on Borgo Degli Albizi--right next to the Jolly Cafe (now something else) and just one minute's walk from the Duomo. It gave me a sense of perspective that was frightening to me at the time.

When I was 22, the summer before my fourth year of college, I visited an anti-Wal*Mart booth at a local fair. There I was first introduced to the ubiquitous use of underhanded tactics by corporate entities. My girlfriend at the time was with me--she didn't understand what the big deal was. Hmph. Not long after this event, I became aware of Michael Moore, Ralph Nader, Utne Reader, Adbusters, Mother Jones and a slew of other independent minds and institutions for the very first time (what took me so long?).

Also in year 22: My first website: “Third Floor Isolation and Retainment.”

My 23rd year was the last year of the five-year architecture program at Kent State University. I had truly amazing teachers that year: Michael Robinson from Harvard, Jeanine Centuori from Cranbrook, and Russell Rock, who defies association. This was the year we rebelled against the graduate school (writing manifestos and all), took an emotional trip to Chicago, trekked through the “worst” neighborhoods of Cleveland, and truly learned what community was. I learned from these people, especially Michael, that you can accomplish anything if you are willing to work until you bring down the gates of hell.

When I was 24, I met Rose. My life changed again. Two weeks after meeting, as we stood in the middle of the oval at the abandoned reservoir, we both knew that our souls had become permanently connected.

At age 25, with the help and encouragement of Rose, I started Opensewer. During this time I was working for the best architecture firm in Cleveland, Ohio: van Dijk Pace Westlake (now Westlake Reed Leskosky).

At 26, Rose and I eloped and went home to Italy once again. Up to that point in my life, this was the most wonderful thing that had happened to me. We had to come back to America…but I think in our heads and hearts we're still gone.

At 27, I quit my job (as did Rose) and we moved to Ithaca so that I could pursue graduate studies at Cornell University. Revised annual salary: $0. Lifestyle: completely submerged in school. It was more work than I bargained for, but wonderful in so many ways.

Age 28: This year, while at Cornell, there was a fair amount of reconciliation between my past and what I perceived to be my future. This had a lot to do with a clash between artistry and economics, and it was quite messy. This year, my relationship with my wife deepened in wonderful ways.

Age 29: This was one of the most exciting yet...a little one on the way...we made it through graduate school, emerging as a stronger couple than ever...I got a great job...hmmm, and we moved back to Cleveland. We'll have to see how this turns out.

Age 30: The move back to Cleveland from New York, the new job, being close to family again (for better and for worse), MAX!, the new house...

Age 31 (2004): I love my boy, I love my wife, I love my job. Now let's pay off those student loans.

Age 32 (2005): Recruited to a new job…that came out of nowhere! A beautiful trip to Firenze with Max and Rose. A Christmas in New York to remember. The Opensewer closes.

Age 33 (2006): Esmé is born! Two years and counting at a job without quitting…a first!

Age 34 (2007): Amazed by how beautiful children make life. Can I stay awake past 9:00 PM after reading to the kids? Learning what it means to be a principal investor. Difficult negotiations lead to "flow". A good ending.

Age 35 (2008): A rough start... (in progress)

I wish I could destroy greed, heartlessness, hate, and ignorance in the world.


Now, because it's fun, some lists. First, we'll start with books and other works of literature. These works changed my world-view so significantly that I was not the same person after reading them (sorted by alpha, not importance):

1984, George Orwell
A Clean, Well-Lighted Place, Ernest Hemingway
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
The Death And Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs
Dune, Frank Herbert

Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Hamlet, Shakespeare
The Hero With A Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell
The Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy, Douglas Adams
Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino
The Necessity for Ruins, J. B. Jackson
Neuromancer & Pattern Recognition, William Gibson
On The Road, Jack Kerouac
Poetry, Language, Thought (Esp. Chap. IV), Martin Heidegger
Siddhartha, Herman Hesse
To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee
The Trial, Franz Kafka
Visual Explanations, Edward Tufte
Walden, Henry David Thoreau
The Web of Life, Fritjof Capra
Where The Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak

Now, here is a list of places I've lived and visited, because where you've been makes you who you are. For those I've visited, I did not count airport layovers, drive-bys or drive-throughs. A meaningful visit of at least one night was required.

Places I've lived, in order:

  1. North Ridgeville, Ohio (until age 1)
  2. Columbia Station, Ohio (until age 16)
  3. Lagrange, Ohio (until age 18)
  4. Kent, Ohio (until age 20)
  5. Florence, Italy (until age 21)
  6. Cleveland, Ohio (until age 27)
  7. Ithaca, New York (until age 29)
  8. Cleveland, Ohio (until age 30)
  9. Shaker Heights, Ohio (Current)

Places (mostly major cities) I've meaningfully visited (airport layovers and drive-throughs are not counted):

United States:

Arizona: Phoenix, Scottsdale, Flagstaff, Sedona
Arkansas: West Memphis (lots of truckstops)
California: San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange County, most of the coast
Colorado: Denver, Boulder, Eldorado Springs
Florida: Orlando, Jacksonville
Georgia: Atlanta, Gainesville
Hawaii: Honolulu (and most of Oahu)
Illinois: Chicago, Rockford
Indiana: Indianapolis, Muncie, Fort Wayne
Kansas: Kansas City
Kentucky: Lexington, Louisville
Maine: Portland, Bar Harbor, and points in between
Maryland: Baltimore
Massachusetts: Boston
Michigan: Detroit, Ann Arbor
Minnesota: Minneapolis/St. Paul
Missouri: St. Louis, Branson, Kansas City
Montana: Missoula
Nebraska: Omaha, Lincoln
Nevada: Las Vegas
New Mexico: Albuquerque, Chloride, Truth or Consequences
New York: New York, Ithaca*, Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Corning, Cooperstown, Jamestown, Binghamton, Woodstock
New Jersey: New York metro
Ohio: Cleveland*, Columbus, Toledo, Akron, Canton, Youngstown, Dayton, Cinncinati, most of the state
Oklahoma: Oklahoma City
Oregon: Portland
Pennsylvania: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Erie
Tennessee: Nashville, Memphis, Chattanooga
Virginia: Richmond
Washington, D.C.
Washington: Seattle
West Virginia: Wheeling
Wisonsin: Milwaukee


Austria: Vienna
Belgium: Brussels, Brugge
Canada: Montreal, Toronto, Niagra Falls (if that really qualifies as abroad!)
Czech Republic: Prague
France: Paris
Germany: Berlin
Hungary: Budapest
Italy: Firenze*, Lucca, Perugia, Roma, Venezia, Milano, Genova, Napoli, Capri, Siena, Amalfi, Pisa
Spain: Madrid, Seville, Barcelona
Switzerland: Ticino (Vico Morcote)

Now, here is a list of films that have resonated with me over the years:

The Short List:

  • Terry Gilliam's Brazil - Because it portrays dreamer-as-protagonist, confused by a mindless and bureaucratic society.
  • David Byrne's True Stories - Because it speaks to many things on many levels, all of which are important to me. And because it does so while having fun.
  • Tom Tykwer's Run Lola Run - Because I am a friend of chaos, and chaos runs the clock of the world.
  • The Cohen Brothers' The Big Lebowski - Because for every time and place, well, there's someone who just fits right in to that time and place.

The Rest That Are Near And Dear:

A Boy and His Dog
A Christmas Story
A Clockwork Orange
A Mighty Wind

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
Alice In Wonderland (Disney)
American Beauty
American Dream
Being John Malkovich
Best in Show
Big Trouble in Little China
Blade Runner
Bowling for Columbine
Box of Moon Light
Chasing Amy
City of Women (La Cittá delle Donne)
The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
Down by Law
Dr. Strangelove
Dune (Lynch)
Edward Scissorhands
8˝ Women
Fahrenheit 451
Fast, Cheap & Out of Control
The Fisher King
Heavenly Creatures
The House of Yes
The Ice Storm
Logan's Run
The Man Who Feel to Earth
Mary Poppins
Metropolis (Fritz Lang)
Metropolis (Rin/Ôtomo)
Monty Python's The Meaning of Life
Mulholland Dr.
1999 Madeline 
Pee-Wee's Big Adventure
The Pillow Book
The Princess Bride
Princess Mononoke
Rear Window
Roger and Me
Soylent Green
The Spanish Prisoner
Spirited Away
Spring Forward
Star Wars
The Sweet Hereafter
This is Spinal Tap
THX 1138
The Tune (Plympton)
Waiting for Guffman
Waking Life
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Here is a set of concepts that inform the way I think about the world. I also have a few thoughts on what it means to be human. 

-- Jason Robert Carroll

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