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:

07 August 2009

[bostonian #6] bpl's music to my ears

in my constant quest to find fun free things to do over the summer, today i stumbled upon a cool little concert series at the boston public library called concerts in the courtyard. every friday from 12:30-1:30 until the beginning of september, they have a different musical event involving local musicians and a variety of styles.

since copley is really not that far from my office, i strolled over to hear cellist javier caballero play. the concert was the best little respite from the day - the pieces ranged from soothing bach for solo cello to international folksongs to sultry tango with violin and viola - and the surrounding greenery and italianate arcades added to the peaceful atmosphere.

the courtyard would make a great place for lunch, and apparently a good crowd of people think so, too. i even saw a guy who brought the whole spread with him: jam jars, cutlery, loaf of bread and all. might have to head back sometime with a book and my brown bag.

i also had never checked out the farmer's market out in copley square during the day...but now i realize that open markets are one of my weaknesses. i came away with lemon verbena honey, a pint of fresh blueberries, and a couple heirloom tomatoes. cannot resist!