24 April 2009

can't stop...but must stop

i haven't been terribly good with keeping this updated lately, but hopefully this weekend might be a catch up one. last weekend's 4 day holiday would've been a good time, as it was a combination of hectic and relaxing. i did much more relaxing and enjoying of the weather than most of my peers, though. it was an unusual weekend when i got to:

1. meet up w/ an old h.s. friend for some good cambridge pizza
2. discuss international development opportunities with my housemaster
3. grab ice cream w/ my boston marathon runner friend, now sporting a new mohawk
4. hear john piper deliver a great message on joy at park street church [click to listen - it's worth it]
5. enjoy a sweet and savory brunch w/ a friend from gcc, thankfully in the area
6. figure out how mit can get involved with the department of micro-urbanism [more on that soon]
7. finally have a french soiree w/ my old parisienne roomie over crepes and scrapbooks (remembering one of our favorite cafes)

and...yes, i did do work in between. ! this past week was actually pretty crazy, with a deadline in every class. i also got sick and am still not really recovered...which makes it even more difficult because our schedule never stops for anyone, and an illness or even simply feeling under the weather can really take a toll on your momentum. my body pretty much came to a halt a couple days ago, and there were two nights in a row when i had to go home early and sleep 12+ hours. this amount of time is pretty much unheard of, especially on a weekday...people typically sleep about a quarter or a third of this amount on a daily basis.

so it's a perpetual conundrum: you need to stay awake to get your work done, but if you don't get enough sleep, you get sick and then can't get your work done. it's a bad cycle, and unfortunately, the system doesn't really accommodate for pit stops of any kind. i guess that's where personal discipline and balance comes in. some professors have said we don't need life balance, since we're doing this for only 3.5 years of our lives...but i'm not so sure i buy into that mentality.

sadly, this actually does happen to people in studio as they're trying to work...or pay attention in class...or even drinking a cup of tea (me, last semester...agh):

in sum total, architecture breeds narcoleptics if we're not careful.
anyways...more (cheerful) updates soon. tonight, sleep. tomorrow, a nyc wedding!

_currently: on the uprise...i hope
_excited about: international development, some possibilities of travel for the summer

18 April 2009

mit press dock sale

can't resist a sale!

every semester, something delightful happens: books go on sale! these aren't just any books, but ones published by the mit press. located on main street right next to the kendall/mit t-stop, the store opens its doors (and loading dock) to members of the university and then to booksellers and the public, giving us access to its inventory at discount. most of the book prices drop down to under $10, which is such a steal! (my inner bargain-loving asian was delighted!)

the selection ranges from the obscure of obscure to more "mainstream" titles within a discipline. for instance, i grabbed a copy of venturi scott brown's learning from las vegas last semester and this time around found works by aldo rossi and bernard tschumi, all well-known architectural theorists. i had to regulate myself so my wallet wouldn't be too light afterwards, so i set a sort of budget for myself and wanted to only get books i would actually use.

for the most part, this worked. kronenburg, an expert on portable architecture, will help w/ my history-theory paper. tschumi and rossi are good for general architectural knowledge. resisting global toxics will bolster my growing interests in sustainability and international development. but...a book on randomness and the slow food movement? i'm guilty. brian, who was kind enough to tag along w/ me, actually got the schott's for me just because he thought it too hilarious to pass up. (so i DID show restraint!)

there goes another way to procrastinate. but hey, it's intellectual stimulation, which i can live with.

_currently: trying to be productive

16 April 2009

with one voice

the first time i heard the voices last semester, it made me stop in my tracks just to listen to that unearthly echo. no, i wasn't hallucinating - after tracking down the source, a couple of us found a huge group of students in lobby 10, participating in the mit choir's community sing. i had never heard of it before, but apparently it's a once-a-semester event where the choir invites anyone and everyone to grab some sheet music and join in with song. such an awesome idea! it created quite the spectacle for passersby and was fun to watch, being something very unique to mit.

so, when i saw the poster advertising the 3rd annual community sing to take place today, how could i possibly resist? it's been such a long time since i had participated in any sort of formal musical group that i was just itching to return to the music. after a bit of convincing, i got reem to come down with me and join with the sopranos. the repertoire was rather broad, spanning a supposed 500 years of musical tradition. some of it i had never heard before and was just sight reading (very rusty... although i managed), but others like "o fortuna" from carmina burana or handal's hallelujah chorus were familiar and made me excited to sing again.

how i miss the presence of music in my life... this hour of time was such a nice break from studio and work in general, and reminded me of all the many facets of mit and how much there really is out there beyond our studio walls. music has such a communal feel to it... maybe i'll try getting involved somewhere/somehow...once i have some time. (we'll see about that.)

i didn't get to take any pictures, but i found an mit student who posted some online. these aren't from today, but you get a sense of what the experience is like.

the hallelujah chorus also reminded me of easter, since we had sung it at park street earlier this week. happy easter! it's such a joyful song, although the high A's sort of kill my out-of-shape voice. for me, though, it does seem to embody the celebration of the cross.

for a funny rendition, some nuns and the chorus!

14 April 2009

an unfortunate chemistry lesson

[ courtesy of bed-stuy banana ]

i'm always a fan of using my own photos when it comes to things like illustrating blogs, but in some cases, the photos taken by others are much more apt.

this sign, though, would be more accurate if it were posted on our school's laser cutter. the laser cutter is part of our rapid prototyping lab (RPL), cutting just about any sort of non-toxic material placed in its bed with...a laser. (tricky, huh.) it's been extremely useful for complex geometries or repetitive elements, although it's also been abused as the lazy person's way of automating a simple process. (i am guilty of this sometimes.)

but i digress. the real issue today was toxic fumes, emitted in the cutting process. we're allowed to cut plastics as long as they're plexi or acrylic, both of which are smelly yet still non-toxic (except in the state of california). so this morning around 4am, i thought what i was cutting was the usual acrylic and could do no harm.

wrong. the flames and purple-pink scorches told me plenty, so i stopped the machine and resorted to plan b for my pieces. but i had been exposed long enough to the fumes (hydrochloric acid), so later felt dizzy, with stinging eyes, a running nose, sore throat...the whole bit. i went to mit medical to check it out, and found that even the doctor on call had to look it up on wiki or something to figure out how to treat me. poison control's suggestion was for me to get some rest until things improve.

although i could've googled that advice on my own, it was still good to get everything checked out. i still ended up presenting my project for our midterm review later on (great timing), and although i'm feeling better than this morning, it's still not so good, so i believe i will go sleep. i think my friends somehow like saying i was poisoned - wouldn't go so far, but it's definitely taught all of us to:

1) read all labels and distrust the unlabeled,
2) actually take materials w/ toxic chemicals seriously

whew. ok, bed time.

12 April 2009

i've got your back

an alarm clock that runs away from you - much like a human could
[ courtesy of uberreview ]

one of the realities of architecture school that i'm still getting used to is the lack of sleep. this past week was a bit rough for me, with my critic coming in three days in a row to see us. whenever we meet, we're typically supposed to have new work to show and discuss, so the one day (12 hour or less) turnaround can really throw you for a loop.

but one of the good things is what i call the human alarm clock. before grad school, i never had a problem waking up the instant my alarm blared kyw news radio or npr into the room, but now...well, then again, i never used to get an average of four hours of sleep, either. so a testament to the quality of friendship here is the wake up call, when you'll, either in person or via text, ask a buddy to call you at a certain time. and of course, the benefit is that 1) unlike an alarm, people can't be silenced with a snooze or even the hanging up of a phone: persistance, and 2) you, oddly enough, learn more about a person's sleeping habits and thus form a better friendship. go figure.

all around, it's a good system. every once in a while, someone forgets, but i know i can always rely on my typical "alarm clocks" (usually yushiro, flo, or reem) to wake me up in the morning if i need it. and that's something that solidifies a good friendship around here.

other marks of a good studio mate:
- won't say something obvious like "wow you look tired," but instead will tell you to shower, blow your nose, or go home, depending on the relevant situation (how motherly)
- will bring in baked goods and share
- will ask you what you want from laverdes (aka "across the street," or the student center) and won't complain if you give very specific coffee instructions
- will serenade you in a pseudo-russian accent (courtesy of my "butt mate")

_ current mood: pensive
_ currently: listening to "hosanna" - hillsong united, reading the great divorce - c.s. lewis

09 April 2009


[ photo courtesy of arquitecturas.files.wordpress.com ]

alvaro siza, famed portuguese architect, was supposed to come to speak for our "new craft of architecture" lecture series on the 16th, but the lecture was sadly canceled due to health reasons. the announcement came via email, and flo promptly started crying (almost). some students suggested doing a telecast, and i mean, why not? doesn't the "T" in MIT stand for technology?

in any rate, it was sad news indeed.

04 April 2009

open house: apples and oranges

the department now has a water bottle, matching our walls!

this past thursday was the architecture open house for admitted students, which brought fresh faces into our midst. it's quite bizarre to think that, only a year ago, i was in their shoes, asking a million questions and nervously ticking off pro-con lists to figure out which would be the best school.

i hosted a potential level 2 student, and we ended up talking through until the wee hours of the morning. our conversation centered mostly around my answering questions she has about the program, like "where can i learn about scripting and robots?" [answer: media lab]. i noticed, though, that she and many other students seemed most curious about the quality of life and studio culture. "is it competitive?" [answer: no. in fact, we are the antithesis of competitive, although you still have the nosy ones who ask, "are you done your project yet? will you build a physical model?"] sure, there's been some civil unrest due to a serious lack of sleep and a lack of architecture background for some, but all in all, i think we operate like a true community of idiosyncratic individuals. (we also enjoy oxymorons.)

cool studio preview booklet turned map, designed by marissa and a huge improvement on our literature in other years

i'm glad our studio didn't end up having a pin up that day, or else we wouldn't have had time to chat with incoming students. it actually would've been even better if the prospectives had time to just wander around and ask us questions, instead of being shuttled in and out of studio so quickly. hopefully they still got an accurate portrait of the school.

i did manage to meet a diverse set of students, some potential level 1's and 2's and even a few smarchs students. there were 2 columbians who crossed my path, and i hope they end up coming. each year should have at least one representative from cu+bc, methinks.

another perpetual question people had was whether or not there's a rivalry between mit and harvard. the concensus among the student body is a NO. we don't really care. kids at the grad school of design (gsd) are different than mit kids. one of my professors described it as the archetypical apples and oranges comparision. but really, that's just fruit. there are just certain people who find mit to be the right home for them (me included), and others who gravitate towards the gsd. i found myself mentally gauging people, and i did meet some who i thought would like the gsd better, which is fine. everyone should find their right fit in the end.

_ currently feeling : pretty lively and recovered from stomach issues
_ currently doing : programming a library, thinking about writing a paper, thinking about sleep too
_ finished watching : l'auberge espagnole, which makes me want to study abroad, w/ less promiscuity
_wishlist: i would find a summer job, or a job would find me