29 December 2009

Quotes : A readable feast

"Read voraciously, many books at a time. Only then will you hear the conversation taking place among them."

"The best library contains both books you have read, and books you have not. The latter should grow in proportion as the library expands. A working library is as much a place for the possible as it is a record of the past."
From "Ways of Reading," a post thanks to A Working Library blog

This is what is happening to me, slowly but surely. My room at school doesn't feel its affects, since transporting books is a pain for me, although my shelves at home still welcome new volumes among their ranks every few months. Library book sales, street-side book tables, flea markets...all are places where I fall victim to twitchy reader's fingers. Sometimes I just have to say "No!", although inside I'm sad to say so. Alas.

During school, I still try to read something for fun despite the craziness of classes, extracurriculars, etc. (That and daily Bible devotions are some of the ways in which I keep sane.) My strategy for finding guaranteed time: read while brushing my teeth. It seems weird (and potentially splashy), but hey - this is how I got through a Ben Franklin biography this semester and a poignant memoir on marriage and faith last semester. Now that it's technically break...it's time to stop "moon lighting" and start reading in daylight again.

26 December 2009

Indecent exposure

Now that I've been liberated by the academic semester and have the leisurely time to read books for fun (egads!), this New York Times article on bad book covers strikes both my literary and design minds alike. A bad cover is like a bad stench in your hands, although I wouldn't say that appearances are everything: I actually like books that are a little worn at the corners over a completely pristine edition.

Anyways, I like the author's solutions for bad book covers (see the article for the listing). My most practiced solution in the past was to brown bag the book (#1) - also an frequent practice from elementary through high school, when the books we read for English class and others were mere borrowed editions. The brown bag gives the liberty of creating your own cover for the books, which I usually did while doodling during a boring class.

#6 (ripping the cover off) just makes my skin crawl, like a gross injustice was just committed.

Back to reading: Salman Rushdie's The Enchantress of Florence.

Jolly Christmas

Celebrating the birth of our saviour* with the Lo's, coming from near (Ambler, PA), far (Gerrard's Cross, UK), and in between (Cambridge, MA)! Somehow it seems fitting that this day started long ago with the birth of a holy infant, especially now as another infant is in our midst as well - albeit a hiccuping, wholly human one who gurgles in our laps and needs nappy changes.

So many gifts that cannot be wrapped or packaged.

Jolly, merry Christmas, remembering Emmanuel. Although it's far from a silent night with family and friends running in and out, it's still a holy one.

* added the extra "u" as a tribute to our pseudo-British folks

21 December 2009

Talk to strangers

If I had to choose, trains would be my public transport mode of choice for longer journeys. Buses are cheaper and planes are faster, but nowhere else can you sit in moderate comfort and have the benefit of scenic views (even if it's just Jersey) and not have to worry about security or rebooking headaches. On the trek back and forth from Boston to hometown Ambler, I almost always take the train because of its lack of headaches and the flexibility of booking ticket without advanced planning. Sure, the bus (especially Bolt Bus or Megabus) are good alternatives for shorter trips to New York, but once you go further than that, the stopover, traffic, and bad smells usually make the train far worth the extra price tag.

It also pays to talk to strangers.

Over my many many trips along the northeast corridor, I've sat next to a slew of strange and interesting folks. Most of them happened to be middle-aged to older men (not sure why), and have ranged from being silently cordial to interestingly chatty to somewhat sketchy. (Note: beware of men who flirt with wedding rings on their fingers - bad sign all around!) Thankfully, today's conversation was not of this shady kind, but was just simply interesting.

For the first part of the trip I napped and wrote Christmas cards, but eventually the conversation started. It ended up I was sitting next to a retired professor of Japanese literature at Brown, who was still teaching part-time for the love of it. Apparently he has spent about 8 years total in Japan over the course of his research, and having been a grad student in Cambridge, the discussion jumped around from control vs. design freedom in architecture (or, why Stockholm's socialist zoning policies might be a good thing), the best food in Asia, China-Taiwan politics, and Okinawa's place in Japanese policy. It made the train's slow-crawling speed all the more bearable and also gave the added benefit of a speed history lesson on Okinawa* and influences on the people's literature, in the span of an hour or so. I never had known anything about the region, so that was great to learn about and use as a launching pad into other discussions.

I've also discovered, in this conversation and elsewhere, that everyone has an opinion about architecture. Once I mention what kind of grad student I am, people almost always ask, "So what type of architecture do you do?" After explaining how we don't actually learn to design or build any one particular type, the conversations usually open up to everything under the sun. I can appreciate how universal our field is, even if in academia it seems narrow at times.

Anyways, talking with this once-met stranger makes me want to travel more, read more, and do more personal research so I can know more in depth. So...you never know who might be sitting next to you! (Travis and Jen might be able to attest to the fact that this applies to planes as well...)

(* Short twitter-esque cliff notes: Okinawa was previously under its own rule but is now a southern prefecture or province of Japan, made up of a collection of islands and with cultural strains similar to China. It is the site of the Battle of Okinawa in WWII and still has a US military base on its shores.)

15 December 2009


In a moment of procrastination during the home stretch of the semester (3.5 down, 1.5 to go), here is what can happen when you're not watching your renderings carefully:

This was supposed to be a cool sectional perspective of my studio project, but ended up looking like an urban Chia-pet. Maybe I should have incorporated it anyways, just to see if my jury was paying attention...

And now to go back to reading and writing as fast as possible. Some things I'm looking forward to once this is over:
  • having delectable BBQ
  • seeing the Nutcracker on Thursday and re-enacting it in my head
  • heading home and seeing my brother, sister, and nephew in living, 3-dimensional color

09 December 2009

MIT's version of a holiday season

Seeing these wreaths go up in the Building 7 lobby brought these words to mind:
Haul out the holly *
put up the tree before my spirits fall again.
Fill up the stocking!
We might be rushing things but deck the halls again now...
(Oh memories of high school musicals...just thought I'd share a variety of renditions out there, in varying degrees of cheesiness.)

Anyways, I should be sleeping now, but after:
  • drawing/modeling/editing/processing enough for 120 square feet of drawings
  • sleeping an average of 3.5ish hours a night for the past week
  • making wake up calls and receiving them (since we no longer hear our alarms)
  • generally being reclusive
...studio for Fall 2009 is over! Although people have mixed feelings about it, I liked the project we worked on, although I'm still glad to have a little piece of life and sleep back. Just about our entire studio came out for dinner and drinks afterwards, and seeing everyone smiling and laughing together - and almost fall asleep at the table - made me glad.

But it's still a reality that the holiday season here at MIT means final projects and ramped up intensity. We've already had snow and hear Christmas music waffling through the corridors, although work still calls - in a loud voice too. Three more project/papers stand between me and end of the semester festivities, which include a trip to see the Nutcracker (so excited), celebrating various studio birthdays, and a possible trip to New York before seeing the family - and my nephew!

Even so, everyone needs a study break every once in a while (now that I can afford one). Peppermint mochas and caroling, anyone?

* I just found this semi- Celtic instrumental rendition of the song on Youtube and after checking out their website, thought it was great that this flute/piano duo features a photo of the flautist's myriad of flutes. (Slight twinge of jealousy.)

29 November 2009

Playing with colors

I've been playing with my blog template. It's still not really what I want it to look like (not terribly minimalistic), but it's a bit of a change. Feel free to leave comments in this intermediate stage.

28 November 2009

The tallest lightning rod in the world

My goal in life: build a tower so skyscraping that it becomes the tallest lightning rod in the world.

At least it produces conversation and some amazing photos! (Thanks, Gizmodo and other modes of procrastination.)

21 November 2009

The choices to make

"It’s not innate gender differences that hold women back (just look at this year’s Nobel Prize winners in science). It’s not even gender bias (OK, maybe a little, but that’s not the biggest problem). It’s that science is demanding and very, very competitive. No matter how family-friendly a given university is, a scientist who chooses to have a baby risks having her next big breakthrough scooped up by a competitor who chooses to spend 24-7 in the lab. Changing that will take more than a handful of policies; it will require changing the nature of the game itself. I don’t think that’s possible, and I’m not entirely convinced it’s desirable. It’s competition, after all, that spurs innovation and advancement."
Janeen Interlandi has some interesting thoughts on the whole “why aren’t there more women scientists” thing. (via newsweek)

Isn't it attitudes like this that create such imbalances in the whole work/life debate? The question of "family vs. work" is a critical one for professional women (not just scientists) and one that I ask myself as I move forward with my degree and career, but it just isn't helpful to make the dicotomy turn into "those annoying kids getting in the way vs. that next great discovery that will make you famous." It's really about priorities and what's considered valuable: fame and reputation vs. people?

What's actually worth it?

19 November 2009

hit the pause button

Sometimes it's just necessary to take a break and rest - even if it's forced and unplanned, like getting sick in the middle of the week. That's definitely one way to get my attention - and make sure I don't start multitasking elsewhere. Even though thoughts of, "wait, well I'm behind now..." or "what will I do for..." still waft into my head, I think I'm learning that it's necessary to just concede and say, "Ok, I do need rest. Now, what does that look like?'

Trying to be thankful for these pause moments and to gain strength for the days to come.

09 November 2009

What once was

People always talk about architecture as being "permanent," although in truth, most buildings nowadays have a projected ~50 year lifespan, in terms of products and assemblies used, warranties, and the like. Allen forwarded me this interesting blog entry on abandoned sites around the world, places that once were vibrant and full of people but now stand as ghosts on the landscape - or, in the case of the Kowloon Walled City (above), have been razed to the ground, with only photos and writings as evidence of their existence.

This topic of permanence is something to consider and is an interest of mine in the field. Maybe it's time that portable, demountable structures be taken seriously - for instance:

Paper Church in Taiwan, by Shigeru Ban

This church is made from paper tubes and was once located in Kobe, Japan, as a temporary church for tsunami victims. It was later relocated to Taiwan, for use by earthquake victims.

There are clearly issues with these sorts of buildings, but environmental impact is also something to take into consideration and change of use over time.

04 November 2009

It's all about the feet

As a procrastinating aside, my Hawaii-native friend Jen (who will always be my BBB! oh, and Eric too) sent me a link to this fun blog that featured the photography of Tom Robinson. He takes these really great photos of his and his girlfriend's feet wherever they travel, and if you check out his site, you'll see that they've been EVERYWHERE. Amazing. It's also funny to see how there are shots like this one where they're hardcore in hiking boots and just climbed Machu Picchu (my next travel destination...sometime), and then there'll be photos of their feet at a spa with dainty red nailpolish (on the gf's toes, of course).

One of these days I should compile the many photos of my red sneakers in various places. (One of these days means...winter break.) Looking at these photos also makes me also want to find that travel partner, but I can (try to) be patient until I find the right one who would entertain my whims to do something fun like this.

ENFJ vs. ESTJ, or why Myers-Briggs are just 4 letters

How is it that 4 little letters can determine so much about you - or at least, the perception of "you"? The Myers-Briggs personality type test is an interesting one that gives you insight into how you function has a human being. I have friends who can recite to me not only their four letters, but also the percentages of each dichotomy - now that's either pure nerdiness or self-awareness, but given that I haven't taken the test since sometime in high school, I figured I would do it again and see.

And I got some surprising results, mostly the persistent appearance of an "E" for "Extroverted" in every test I took. Last time, I most definitely was an Introvert, perhaps an INFP (maybe INTP) or something along those lines. In exploring various (free) online tests, I eventually got one of two types: ENFJ (Extroverted iNtuitive Feeling Judging - Idealist Teacher) or ESTJ (Extroverted Sensing Thinking Judging - Guardian Supervisor). Puzzling... why? See below:

1) why I : I used to be very shy - and still am, at times. My mom used to say that I was forced to speak up more once my brother left for college, in order to fill the silence at home.

2) why E : It's hard for me not to be involved and busy, meaning interacting with and being around people most of the time. I do enjoy it, although...

3) why I (again) : there comes a point when I get really tired and just want to retreat from the world. Being with 1 or just a couple people works well, though, and I'm fine with silence (of the unawkward nature) and just being pensive.

4) why S : I like to do research and gather facts, just as a squirrel stores away nuts - and always ask "why ________?" Yes, it's that time for the difficult questions! In that way, I'm sometimes more satisfied with the tangible at hand, although...

5) why N : ...serendipity is essential and it happens - that's really how design works in some ways. Being creative and trusting the hunch are key, and I guess this is why I ended up choosing Columbia over MIT the first time around and becoming a designer rather than a scientist or engineer (but funnily enough, where am I now...?).

6) why T : Flo calls me her "female Kurt" (Kurt being her rational engineer husband) because of my "let's take a step back, shall we?" approach to situations. Sometimes, though, I think too much and my head hurts...

7) why F : which is why in the end, I can change my mind last minute, usually on a hunch or a final "sense" (sometimes feelings-based, sometimes Spirit-based). This can frustrate others (and myself), but trusting intuition has served me well.

8) why J : Like many people, I like to plan and plan well in advance. Kunle has told me many times that I'm probably the busiest person he knows outside of himself, w/ the number of things I have penciled in my mental calendar,

9) why P : ...although really, within that rigid time structure I have moments of spontaneity that people just don't really know about...unless they're actually around me at that time. In the end, I can't be very uptight - go with the flow.

10) And since there's a little of everything in there, this is why I take M-B with some hulking grains of salt and will not be pigeon-holed! Sure, it might help determine things like how I'll function at the workplace, who I might be most compatible with, etc., but really... If it makes me more self-aware, then it's already done its job and I need not dwell on it longer than that (although I still find it interesting from a psychological standpoint...a different issue).

- - -

That was longer than anticipated, but ah well - just the beginning.

What type are you, and do you think it's accurate?

01 November 2009

Introducing Isaac

Once upon a time, only a few months ago, the baby looked like this:

Now, he's no longer an "it" residing in Jenny's belly, but his name is Isaac Yun-Lok Lo, below in full technicolor:

Today I finally got to skype with my brother and see Isaac for the first time "live." He's SO cute, and his eyes were sort of open, too! (Most photos on their blog and on Facebook show him with his eyes closed. I can't imagine being alive for one week is enough to get him really used to the blinding lights of this world.) The song "Father Abraham" kept coming to mind during our conversation. So cute. I can't wait until December when we finally get to meet in 3 dimensions! One of my friends commented that he didn't know having a nephew would be so exciting - well, in fact I wasn't sure what to expect, but he's now here and sometimes I find it hard to contain my happiness (sorry, for those who've had to hear it repeatedly). It's just surreal having a new member of the family who's so closely related to you. And kids are cute - the best thing about being an aunt is enjoying children without having them myself :P

Anyways, life is an intrigue and still amazes me.

23 October 2009

100th post: MIT makes Obama smile

Obama holds up a periodic table: he's surely at MIT!

It seems fitting that my 100th blog post features the President of the United States. He came to visit MIT - deemed "the most prestigious university in this part of Cambridge, MA" (after correcting himself) - to promote clean energy research and talk a bit about his vision for becoming energy independent. Although the speech itself was by invitation only, the Institute broadcasted it all over campus in various locations and also made it available online. (Thank you, technology!)

The speech itself was on the shorter side and somewhat general - to the disappointment of some students - but it seemed more like a strategic motivational speech a la Kennedy and the Space Race rather than a hash-out of particular policies. Obama actually did make several analogies between the Space Race, the pioneering age, and today what he deems the "peaceful competition" for clean energy solutions - all evoking that spirit of discovery that he wanted to distill in his listeners.

I do wish that he had been a bit more specific about the initiatives he and Congress have been putting through for research and clean energy support. Some of what he talked about was reminiescent of some things I worked on this past summer, like the Cap and Trade Bill (exciting that policy I gave feedback on is now in writing!). Most of it was pretty vague, so I'm hoping to get more details about how exactly this framework will boost the economy and result in positive steps against climate change and what particular industries can do.

One random observation: he actually referred to the ARRA (aka Recovery Act) as "the Stimulus" - not that I've really been following his rhetoric throughout his presidency, but I just found it interesting, since at this summer's LISC conference on affordable housing, the HUD representative was careful to emphasize that we shouldn't be referring to it as the Stimulus.

But anyways, we'll see how Mr. President chooses to act on his words, but in the meantime, at least we know that MIT can make him smile with a simple periodic table.

Remember for whom you work

"REMEMBER FOR WHOM YOU WORK: Whether you work for a private company, the government, a large corporation, or yourself, the true disciple understands that he or she ultimately is working for God in that place. “Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters, since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:23-24). "

- Norman Shawchuck
A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God*

True that. Yesterday Richard Stearns, the president of World Vision, came to speak at the Harvard Kennedy School about the changes that need to be made in the American Christian mentality to really be fulfilling our calling in the world. It was quite thought-provoking and insightful, with a good balance of his personal story of how he came to know God and the convicting facts about the issue of poverty and how we can act on that.

Apparently Christians give 2% of 2% of their incomes to world missions and other global issues. That's 6 cents per day, per person. And we wonder why change happens so slowly. I guess it's not just about money, though, but about the heart. As he said it aptly, "You are God's Plan A, and He doesn't have a Plan B" when it comes to changing the world.

Sometimes I'm skeptical of "change the world" speeches, since often they seem to be loaded rhetoric without sharing the means to actually take action. But here, I can see how the choices we make in our career and calling (hopefully the two are tied together) can lead us to be more or less useful in the Kingdom.

As I go into this next week of crazy work...my mind ponders.

* from this morning's Upper Room Daily Reflections newsletter

18 October 2009

birthday but not yet birth date

I stole this photo from my brother and sister (in law)'s blog because it's just too cute. It was Jenny's birthday yesterday and the soon-to-be born nephew's due date was the day before, so now there's a lot of anticipation in the air. When will he arrive? Who will he look like? How chubby will his cheeks be?

But in the meantime while we wait (and why are boy babies always late?), I just showcase the happy parents-to-be, whom I love and miss very much. One of my friends thought I was crazy NOT to be over in London right now to see my nephew being born, and actually that was a sad reminder that my siblings are pretty far away and that I wouldn't be able to witness this momentous occasion for the Lo's. Then again, I guess I'll have to learn to package up love and send it overseas.

Anyways, happy birthday Jenny! I think back in my brother's bachelor years and how I really wondered what sort of woman he'd end up with. And...well, now they've celebrated their 2 year anniversary and will soon be welcoming their first child into the world. I've told this to many people, but I've always thought that an older brother is one of the best siblings to have, and now the family's become even more complete when I got an older sister :] Hopefully I'll end up being as good of a sister to whoever's siblings or family I end up eventually getting introduced to.

13 October 2009

the joy of retreating (long version)

the outdoor chapel . fall's rich foliage

Last weekend's Boston grad retreat to Toah Nipi in Rindge, New Hampshire, gave me great joy. Although I had been somewhat stressed about taking days off from school so close to a deadline, thankfully my review was pushed back to this Friday, and I had peace knowing it was the right thing to do.

I had some people ask me what you do on a retreat. Essentially, it's a time away from daily life - very often out in a somewhat remote and natural setting - to get refocused on God and spend quality time with other people, mostly Christian although it's not really required that you be one to go. (But of course...meeting God is sort of the point, so there's no deception there :P )

Anyways, the week leading up to the retreat I had this great anticipation of things great to come. I had no idea what I was expected - and even now, there are some things unknown - but I was excited for whatever God had in store. We looked at the book of Jonah, which was short enough (4 chapters) yet chock full enough of insights and information to make it an indepth study. Skits made it come alive (I proudly acted as cargo being thrown out of the ship in v. 1:5 haha), and in all we had a lively discussion about its lessons.

It was also the worship band's public "debut":

(Thanks to Linda, our photographer!)

which was Source of Specific Joy #1. A friend who saw this photo on Facebook told me, "I didn't know you were in a band!" Well...I guess I am! Although this isn't really the type to give "concerts" per se (although we welcome your commissions ha)... We started playing back at the beginning of the summer, after finding a need for a worship band at GCF. We've truly come a long way since our beginning sessions (when salvation seemed to be long off... inside joke), but Saturday's praise session and then Sunday morning's went so well that we were incredibly thankful - hence, being full of joy. I've realized more and more how much joy the band gives me - leading worship, hearing ~180 voices become one voice, listening to each other play and being united as a band, etc. These are great - and often ridiculously silly - brothers and sisters to be with :]

Source of Joy #2 (of many):

Not just falling leaves, but being among the trees and witnessing how beautiful a New England autumn can be. I was deprived of hiking this past summer, so it was nice to get up early on Sunday morning and just walk around by myself. There's something just so peaceful about being in nature with enough fresh air to clean your lungs and silence around save for the wind in the leaves. (It also makes me somewhat poetic - nice byproduct.)

It was also cool meeting people from other schools and bumping into some old faces I hadn't expected to see there. Good times overall, and I'm hoping the lessons learned will stay with me through the stress of the semester. I still have to sort out some things, though - that sense of anticipation hasn't really left me, so I wonder what's left to come... I guess I'll find out soon enough?

10 October 2009

How big is home sweet home?

I've been interested in small architecture for a while now, but never came across this example before. This is a 96 SF house designed and built by Jay Shafer in Sebastopol, CA, when he was fed up with the excessive space of his then-apartment. He's able to cart it around via flatbed truck and bring it to idyllic places like the middle of this orchard.

There's something satisfyingly simple about this house. I came across it when actually researching the smallest buildable footprint (for a studio project), and this extreme living by being essentialist intrigues me. Would I be able to design it? Or live in it? My current dorm room is more than double the footprint of that place. Now it seems...gargantuan.

One disadvantage? He says he can't have big parties.

09 October 2009

is it really fall?

So I'm leaving for the Fall Boston Grad Retreat tomorrow morning, and it was suggested that I check out the weather report for Rindge, New Hampshire. Good thing I did! It's going to be BELOW freezing tomorrow night. ??? It's barely mid-October! This is New England for you...

I've heard that cold nights are good for fall foliage. At least that's a plus. And maybe there will be hot chocolate.

In any rate, I'm looking forward to getting away from the city for a bit and refocusing, among a seemingly-record number of participants this time around. We'll see what God does in this short day and a half.

07 October 2009

Future Craft : Dissecting the time ticker

For our next Future Craft assignment, we had to dissect a product (either physically or virtually) and then make a source map of the materials used to make it. The ideas is that, through the method of mapping, we'll gain an increased awareness of the footprint carried by things as they move from factory to household. I chose to dissect an old clock radio that's been in my house forever, but just recently started to cough and sputter. See the map's details below. For more detailed information about the process, click the photo above.

This project made me consider how things are actually made and where they come from...so in that sense, I suppose it was a successful one. Awareness is the first step in action, although with complex supply chains already in place, it's hard to see how one might reform them or make products that are truly "local" if you need something only manufactured or found in, say, Russia.

04 October 2009

what's your signature?

I recently changed my profile picture to the above photo of shoes. These aren't just any shoes, but my red Saucony's that I happened to get in Center City (Philly) for $12 on a fortunate spur-of-the-moment lunch shopping stint with Ruth, one of my fun-loving coworkers at RMJM. (Sorry - very long descriptor.) I really like them and would even say that I "heart" them. Their predecessors were also a pair of Saucony's of the same style, but blue. Those met their demise on the shores of Assateague Island, after being worn out, soaked, and caked with mosquito-infested mud post-camping.

Moment of silence.

Although I don't often get attached to physical things like this, it makes me wondering if everyone has a "signature" item that would be instantly recognizable by anyone remotely associated with that person. For instance, my friend Reem's would be bright green - simply the color applied to any piece of clothing. (This color also infiltrates her studio presentation boards as being "so Reem.") On another scale of fame, even Le Corbusier (architect) had round spectacles that were consistently part of his persona and now would even be said to be Yung Ho's signature as well (our department's chair).

What would your signature item be? And if all our "signatures" were put on display somewhere, would someone identify it as yours?

03 October 2009

Architecture : permanent or fleeting?

APPARATI EFFIMERI Tetragram for Enlargment from Apparati Effimeri on Vimeo.

In response to my ideas about pixelation and gradual fragmentation for the next part of my studio project (to explain that more fully at a later time), my TA pointed me to this amazing video by Apparati Effimeri of a full-scale facade projection on an ancient castle.

I've never seen anything by this Italian interactive media firm before, but this one video left me wowed: these surreal and intricate effects were accomplished with just light and shadow (and crazy 3-dimensional digital skills as well). Not only does this project broach questions like, "how did these people do this?", but also questions about the permanence of buildings and the nature of effect and atmospherics. If you ever wondered what it would be like to deconstruct a seemingly-solid edifice...well, this is the place to see it.

In my opinion, architecture nowadays seems to be built more for the next 50 years rather than the next 100-500+ years. How has our scope of time diminished so drastically? Part of me feels that, in our more consumeristic culture, we're beginning to prefer transience and change over longevity as a matter of taste rather than any other staying power. However, the buildings and structures that society seems to constantly stand in awe of are works of antiquity: the Parthenon, the Pantheon, the Great Wall, etc. Reconciling the two is a matter of cultural preservation and economics, but also of defining what we value as a collective. The masses speak, whether modernist architects like it or not.

01 October 2009

DIY trifle revamped

how to make a fast and friendly fresh fruit trifle - More DIY How To Projects

I had already posted about this recipe before, but I decided to revive it and make it into an Instructable for my Future Craft class. Check out the cool illustrations above - thanks, Photoshop! See the rest of the story at my Crafting the Future blog.

HOME : planet earth, with a human spin

Sung sent me a link to this documentary called "Home," which reminds me very much of the awesome Planet Earth, except its aim is not simply to show the stunning natural beauty of our planet, but to talk about the human impact on the Earth and the urgencies of climate change - a popular topic, but tackled in a slightly different way. The wide angle and high-res filming make it hard to stop watching (hence...the timing of this post).

Now I'm in the mood to watch Planet Earth - anybody have it?

26 September 2009

i should be baking

courtesy of flickr

Google Reader: the joy of sharing

This past summer I discovered Google Reader, which was a big revelation in itself. And lately, I was perusing my Reader subscriptions after neglecting them for quite a few weeks (darn vault got in the way of my prime procrastination!), and finally noticed that little link in the sidebar:

9 new people sharing with you. View.

I was curious, so I clicked and saw that friends were following my shared items and now were soliciting me to read theirs. This is really a feature I rarely use - to be honest, I almost never read the items that are shared with me, and I don't remember adding anyone except for 1 person, and yet my list is populated with 15 people who I supposedly am following. [Note: I now read them, so don't get offended.] Funny how sneaky Google is.

After skimming some of my friends' shared posts, I found funnier the fact that...wow, this is such a great portrait of these people! You start to see major trends in their interests, tastes, and even how often they feel like sharing items with others (sociability perhaps? proactivity vs. laziness?). For instance, JH posts prolifically on architecture, fashion, and food [arch. student]; whereas LH's are all about environmental policy and other issues [you can guess her profession] and MG's focus on chemistry and football [school pride, not a football player]. These are all in a similar vein that really reinforce these central interests.

Others, though, are much harder to categorize in one subject area or another, which is cool to see how widespread their interests are. Take NY as an example: he has blog posts on new gadgets, devotions, light pollution, comics...and the list continues. He also shares somewhat frequently, which leads me to wonder how much work he's getting done (i keed).

Google Reader: another way to bring people together.
My thought: my friends are cool and like to share, so I should probably share with them.
My secret thought (not-so-secret now): this could be a cool diagram...

23 September 2009

have you found my utopia?

Our assignment due this week was to cast our vision for a utopia and present it to our class via our class blogs. You can check out the rest of the entry here, but here's a fun little (and elementary) animation I put together for it:

21 September 2009

The real-world geographical location of a network-connected device.

geolocative design:
The use of geolocative media to augment our experience of a place and facilitate communication and collaboration among a network of participants.

Paris, France

Here's a teaser for a site-specific geolocative film (a bit abstract, but suggestive of another experience of the park with the narrative created by media), whose research group I might be working with this semester:

le chasseur from coleman & goldkrand on Vimeo.
a wifi thriller in dislocated parts

this is the trailer for our geo film project

the chasseur or the hunter was filmed for and on location in buttes chaumont park in paris

the film will be viewable via a locative aware device in the park itself

20 September 2009

season changes

The air is crisp here in Boston. Part of me isn't ready for the seasonal changes, although I have to remind myself that it is, indeed, almost the end of September - fast but true, and with the marching days comes chillier days when walking around in just a t-shirt isn't quite enough.

We're about to start the second full of week of school. So far we've already had one studio review, a handful of assignment deadlines, a site visit (also studio related), the first large group where the Grad Christian Fellowship's worship band performed, and the first Bible study for architecture and planning students. Whew!

My schedule is starting to settle in. A graphic glimpse of what a somewhat typical week looks like:

Those bubbles represent 4 classes (finally have settled with Future Craft as my elective, although part of me still wants to check out a low-income housing seminar... sometimes I just need to say NO MORE) with some additional activities like meetings and practices. It doesn't include my work hours in there, which are flexible.

Time: the rarest and most fleeting of commodities.

16 September 2009

how to : tag-specific site feeds

For one of my classes (Future Craft), part of the course is maintaining a blog to post our work and discussions from the course. We have the option to either start a completely new blog or to just create a tag in an existing one.

I had to ask myself: do I want to start another blog that I would use for only one semester and then drop afterwards - thus adding another site to the abandoned internet wasteland? Or, do I want to open up my work and increase traffic to this blog by adding a tag, but then have all my classmates getting mixed up in posts that are clearly unrelated to the course? (The issue of privacy really is moot, since pretty much anything I write online is meant to be read - privacy doesn't quite exist in cyberspace.)

These wonderings lead to my investigation into how one would actually even create a RSS feed for a single blog tag. And yes, it can be done! Blogger's help section isn't terribly conducive to finding this information (and one of their other help articles didn't work), but I did find it here. Essentially what you need to do is insert the following address into the feed reader:


Of course, you need to replace "blogname" with your...blog name, and the "labelname" in the same way. This works beautifully.

With that said...I started another blog. By now, this is the 3rd blog I've started for a specific project (the other two being for the brick masonry vault project - which still lives on - and the SAP Builds blog, which was specific to my January El Salvador trip but might be revived if the group keeps going). Why start another one?
  1. I like blogging.
  2. It's an experiment: this time around, I'll be starting one on Tumblr, a relatively new blog site launched about 3 years ago. I have blogs on Blogger and Wordpress, but now it's time to see how Tumblr works and if it holds up to the traffic.
  3. I'm curious : not only does Tumblr seem to have some cool design templates beyond what's readily available on Wordpress and Blogger (outside of designing my own site completely), but the focus is on microblogging, tumbleblogging, or just short, to the point posts that are sort of something between Twitter and typical blog sites. Sure, the posts will probably still be something at length, but see #2.
  4. It's also another experiment in targeted blogging. I discovered through the SAP Builds and Vault blogs that really focused sites are easier to describe to others and sometimes attract more of a "following" than general personal blogs. Of course, this blog here resists the specificity since I'm sort of a generalist, but...yeah go to back to #2. I might just end up mashing them all up together in the end - who knows?
Anyways, it's still in its birthing stages but check it out for updates later (will dual-post as well to give a taste):

15 September 2009

school's in session

It's the start of the first full week of classes, and although it's been busy, it hasn't been overwhelming. Phew! This semester is (supposedly) our last one of core, which means the end of our prescriptive classes. I have three of those - design studio, building technology, and history of architecture from 1750 - and, very excitingly enough, now have room in my schedule for an official elective. Last Spring I did take some supplementary classes, but this time around we have the room and freedom to choose what we want.

It's like being a kid in a candy store! It might not seem to be such a big deal to others - and hey, in undergrad I enjoyed taking good classes but didn't revel in it to this degree - but after a year of mandatory coursework, it's nice now to feel the reins slacking and have a choice. My friends and I have been class shopping since the semester officially began last Wednesday, and already I've checked out 4-5 classes. I've narrowed down my options to choosing between:
  • Future Craft : Media Lab class on product design and sustainability - very flexible, explores design issues outside of architecture, and can be tailored to what I want to do.
  • Ideal Forms of Contemporary Urbanism : joint architecture/urban planning class on the modernist trajectory in urbanism - seems extremely interesting and is a topic I want to learn more about. Plus, it matches well with my studio this semester, which is about urbanism.
  • Daylighting : course goes over the basics of daylighting principles, leading into a case study and installation at a house in Cambridge - this goes along with my building technology/performance interest, although I've heard it's somewhat basic.
One of the classes I really did want to take was a sustainability workshop in Cambodia that intersects design and building technology. The project is for a school for impoverished children and it looked really awesome, although there's limited enrollment and slim chances. I got on the wait list, which I suppose is a glimmer of hope, but given the odds, I've looked elsewhere.

In the end, I end up taking a total of 4 courses plus an independent study with John O. (further vault work and material studies) and work (assistantship for the Public Service Center). And extracurriculars. Am I busy?

That's obvious. The real question should be, how often will you actually get to see me?

That's the sad thing: I don't want to be so all over the place that I never get to be anywhere at all or spend time with friends. My mom also offered the caution that, if I'm too busy during the year, then I'll really never find a boyfriend. (Thanks...such advice.) I think that's the least of my issues, although I suppose my mentality is that if I want to spend time with someone, then I will make time.

But anyways, it's a real issue of life balance. One of my studio professors once commented that balance was overrated and that we would have the rest of our lives to be balanced. To me, this statement seems to tip the scale over to extremism. Of course I want to devote time to my classes and do well - that's why I'm at MIT after all - but then again, it doesn't make up the totality of my life, nor does it give me my purpose for working so hard. Lesson, then: discipline, delegation, and prayer. Not everything can be done at once, nor necessarily by me - essential thoughts.

I'm terribly behind with posting... Look out for something on my Seattle trip, vault pictures and why it went out with a BANG, and notes on my first project for this semester. Also, if I end up taking the Future Craft class, then there might also be some posts on those projects as well (mandatory for the class to have a blog).

12 September 2009

A spectacular ending

The vault we've been working on for the past 3 weeks finally had its public appearance! And it went out with a bang - very, very literally...

More later - too tired - but there are SO many people I need to thank for helping us with this project... those who lent their time, energy, and money to help us out; those who bought us food, let us borrow their muscles, and who jumped in to do even the most menial of tasks just to help us get them done. People like:

Huang, Kian, Curtis, Reem, Jessi, Gerhard, Sunnie... and others who were just curious and came by to check out our work.

Now to bed after a night of celebration and drama - finally!

11 September 2009

vault n51: almost there!

the project i've been working on since mid-july (and earlier) is finally going to be open to the public for one night - friday! (aka...tonight) 3 weeks of construction later...we're just about there. it's been a really fun yet somewhat exhausting process.

see the light at the end of the construction tunnel?

03 September 2009

bon voyage, e+j!

maybe not the most flattering picture of us, but it's us nonetheless in typical fashion.

Last week I was at home for a bit of a whirlwind visit with family and friends, and I thankfully got to be around to say bye to my good friends Eric and Jen. It was bittersweet - bitter because I was sad to have my BBB's ("Best Blue Bell Buddies") moving across the globe to Hawaii, but sweet because I know this was very much an answer to prayers for them.

This is one couple that I could always hang out with and never feel like the "third wheel." It was so comfortable that I even witnessed firsthand their bickerings without a flinch - that baring of dirty laundry, indeed, is the mark of friendship! (Yes, Jen is probably making a face as she reads this :P )

But anyways, in typical e+j fashion, I hung out at their place late into the night as a last (well, almost last) good bye. They put me to work in helping them to pack and also handed off some things to me to take. It was actually pretty amusing - I almost felt like they were trying to entice me with the various items they still had in great salesperson fashion: "this makes a GREAT travel pillow - compact - lightweight - and has a cool hawaiian print as well!"

hard at work, and trying not to snap too many of the bubbles

tired by the end of it all

after many takes...the acceptable self-take

Oh Chens...you will be missed! From my first encounter with them in GCC family group to their engagement to their wedding in Hawaii, late night talks, "family" dinners, and lengthy email exchanges... well, we'll just have to make more memories at a longer distance. Here's to heart friends!

01 September 2009

early registration?

As a side project, I'm designing the wedding programs for one of my friends at MIT. I was just poking around theknot.com, looking at some examples for bursts of inspiration, but after a few minutes just about every other page was encouraging me to register for a free account on the website.

This made me snort, but then I stopped and thought about it. It occurred to me that, if I registered, I would pretty much be labeling myself as a would-be bride, when that's clearly far from the case. (Really reee-ally far.) But I suppose it's true that, over even just the last year or so, I've become so saturated with wedding culture. My friend Kaitlyn once remarked that I might have been to more weddings than any of her friends - this came after she asked for design advice and lead into a lengthier discussion on how not to have a boring wedding. (More on that later.)

Oh, funny... Although I can't help but think to myself, "Hm...I like that, don't like that, like that..." when I observe or see various things at different weddings, it's probably best to lay most of that thinking aside. The proper time will come when it's my turn - but until then, I'm content to play a small part in my friends' happiness, even if it's in a graphic sort of way.

Anyways, as I work on my current project (part of my "moonlighting" after the vault during the day, I guess), here's a mini snapshot of the programs I designed for my lovely college friend Jackie, who got married just a couple weeks ago and is now Mrs. Vary (!!!):

[note: the image quality here isn't very good - I'm not sure why it is, since the original files are fine, but it gives a picture.]

28 August 2009

preview: the pacific northwest

beautiful (uncharacteristic of seattle) weather, beautiful wedding!

activities included:
eating the most delicious croissant state-side
attending the wedding w/ the sweetest couple
wandering the streets with local friends (and sometimes in their cars)
driving on an island and disobeying the gps
discovering the most un-scandinavian norwegian town
exploring on foot and via seattle's well-connected bus system

21 August 2009

Official save the date!

come one, come all to the reception showcasing our awesome brick masonry vault, fondly known as the "spider vault" to the team.

click on the banner to check out our blog! (also started by yours truly.) we're trying to keep track of our progress.

- - -

in other news...leaving for seattle tomorrow! thanks for the suggestions - i made note and hopefully will get to soak in the essence of the city in a short 3 days.

19 August 2009

The first webinar

One of my tasks at my internship, among loads of other things, was to take on the job of coordinating and moderating (and eventually trouble-shooting) a Green Development Center webcast. Now...I've given plenty of presentations within an academic context, but not many in the professional world, and a total of zero web-based ones. This was new territory, but it's been a cool experience learning in the last couple months about the process of developing one and just researching and getting educated on the topic itself.

I've heard about off-site (or modular) cnstruction a little bit, but just imagined cranes swinging boxes in the air - very cookie cutter building and not very interesting. However, after chatting quite a bit with the panelists, who are all experts in the field, I soon realized that there was a lot more to it. It means that buildings can still be customized, but instead of constructing it directly in the site ("stick building"), it's fabricated in the controlled environment of a factory and then shipped and placed with a crane. The regulated atmosphere doesn't automate the process necessarily (not a conveyor belt, but still people doing the work), but it makes it faster, often cleaner, and more integrated of a process.

This diagram from some UVA students was helpful in illustrating how off-site construction goes from factory to site:


Then...take 2 months' worth of research, conference calls, and ta-da!

The hour and a half went well yesterday, despite some technical hiccups. Wahoo - that's one big project done.

I won't go into length about off-site construction itself, but some of the things I noticed:
  • The making of a good Powerpoint is KEY - and I was shocked at how many presentations (not necessarily those of the presenters, but just in general) were just..not...very...good. And they're being shown in very professional settings, so I guess I've taken for granted, being in the design world, how important aesthetics and just plain readability are in getting your point across.
  • Off-site construction and other systems-based building techniques aren't taught at all in school. I suppose they border on the building science side of things, which has a weird role in academia. One of the panelists seemed gung-ho about me bringing this back to the classroom realm...but we'll see what happens.
  • Coordinating 3 busy people for a slew of conference calls and meetings, across time zones nonetheless, is a little stressful. To say the least. We got through it, though, and I was pleasantly surprised - and grateful - how, despite the many reschedules, these professionals were really flexible and willing to put the effort into this presentation even though it was a voluntary effort.
Technology: love it, hate it, can't live without it.

17 August 2009

must-see seattle?

seattle in a different light?

I'll be in Seattle this coming weekend for a much-anticipated wedding. Yay!

Any suggestions on what to see/do in 2.5 days? I'm not the type to do really touristy things (except maybe the Seattle Public Library - a must for my archi-nerdiness), so would rather know the insider scoop or just fun places to wander around. Any tidbits or hints on getting around would be good, too.

(Note: I'll probably rent a car, which seems counter to the city's growing sustainable reputation, but more convenient for where I need to go - oh well.)

14 August 2009

social media 101

Lately I've become increasingly intrigued by social media. Why do people use them? To what end?

I knew of Facebook from its humble beginnings as a school-exclusive site, so I've seen its development over time. (Fun fact: one of my college classmates actually dated Mark Zuckerberg back in high school.) Now I find myself not understanding Twitter, the new kid on the block - but I'm determined to get to the bottom of it.

As part of my self education, I tuned into an informative webinar hosted by Social Media Magic. It was a pretty straight forward presentation on the basics of social media - why you, too, should get on the bandwagon! The target audience was more for marketers out to build partnerships and a client base, but it was still interesting for me, as I'm hoping to find ways to get projects off the ground in the future.

Some of the more helpful hints:
  • Have a specific, narrow message with one core focus. Also known as the "sniper" approach.
    Self assessment: Very difficult for me, since I'm too curious and end up being all over the place in terms of interest. My initial intention was for this blog to be more architecturally focused...but then it ends up also being about food, travel, and other things. Ah well - I guess I'll learn to be a niche maker later.
  • Start with the "Big Three" and branch from there.
    Self assessment: Facebook is for friends. LinkedIn is for business connections. Twitter...well, as I said, I'm still trying to figure out why people want to know what someone else ate for dinner. But this leads to the next point...
  • Twitter can be a powerful search engine like Google.
    Self assessment: Now, this is something I can find value in. Looking at it as a way to search the most current conversations going on all over the world is actually a really smart thing. In my recent marketing/publicity endeavors - the MIT Museum vault project, the Veritas Forum - it's good to search out your audience. Hm hm hm...
So, who uses Twitter? Can you help me shed some light on that?

13 August 2009

money matters!

a bit of a personal update:

money has popped up at the forefront of my thoughts lately, mostly because my financial aid has taken quite a long time to be processed and has made me really antsy about paying the remainder of my tuition for the fall. but good news came today - at least i now know the predicted amount of my loans and don't have to worry so much about how to pay it up front. God is good!

but even so, i'd rather not accumulate so much debt or push it back over time (especially with my projected income on graduation...not exactly big bucks), so i've been trying to find some other sources of income via grad assistantships or hourly positions. there are a couple options i'm looking into, and hopefully one of them will work out so i'll have my tuition covered.

tag clouding

one of the features i like about wordpress that isn't inherent to blogger is the tag cloud. i know, it's a little silly, but hey - it's nice to have something more visual to communicate information than just lists of links, right? (and i'm a visual person.)

in my initial searches, i found this website that combs through all your posts and creates a very basic, low-res image of a word cloud. i thought it was interesting to see what words i've used the most in my writing:

so you can tell that i seem to like small things and think much of the time about artifex, boston, and good food. hm!

but to create the actual tag cloud widget to the right >>, i found this handy bit of code on this frivolous motion blog. again, it's no frills but does the trick while working with blogger's widgets.

11 August 2009

green: what about the rest of the rainbow?

green (adj.)
green (v.)
greening (n.)

i have green up the wazoo (wherever that even is). i am greened out.

honestly, i have never seen so many references to the word "green" in my life than during this summer internship. of course, i work for the green development center - that in itself should have clued me in. however, the casual way this word is thrown around really makes me question whether people know what it means.

"green" has moved light years beyond its meaning as a mere color in a crayola box, although some people still might conceive of it as such. (just check out my classmate lara's search for green bricks for our vault project, and you'll probably laugh.) but still, what do people typically even mean when they use it?

in my work this summer at a community development non profit, i think most of the time it refers to a very amorphous collection of things that is somehow good for the environment. it's vague. it's a buzz word. and saying it means the speaker/writer is off the hook for actually being more precise. even substituting it with "sustainable" (another buzz word) or "environmental (my word of choice) helps to a certain extent... but not always.

when i ask more probing questions like, "so, what exactly are these 'green features' you plan to incorporate in your project?" sometimes the response has been, "what do you think we should do? maybe energy star appliances and solar panels?" when you get to the bottom of it, most users seem to equate it with a smaller carbon footprint and energy efficiency. and solar panels - almost always. i don't mean to minimize the importance of energy savings, but what about the rest of the environment? water conservation? materials? renewables?

outside of the affordable housing scope and in the blogsphere, i've come across "green" referring to eco-friendly products made from recycled materials or from some soy-based organic material that is supposedly not harmful to the environment (note: it's "not harmful," not "good" or "friendly to"). here, there's such a pervasive "feel good" atmosphere that i've seen categorized as "rose" blogging - posts that are meant to make the reader feel warm and fuzzy inside.

ugh. i already don't like chick flicks, so let this not be another syrupy story.

i think society needs a larger vocabulary. and less clip art.

10 August 2009

save the date!

save the date:

vaulting into the future:
a testing ground for masonry innovations

friday, september 11th
mit museum
265 Massachusetts Ave
7:30pm until TBD
(but at least until the food and drinks run out)

i spent this weekend writing a press release...to come shortly.
in the meantime, check out this other blog for info: