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.)