21 December 2010

Reading underground

A clip from the article's illustration, by Peter Arkle

The NYTimes publishes a whimsical and lovely way to illustrate commuters' book reviews.

Makes me truly thankful that, now that I'm on break, I can actually read for fun!  What a joyful concept, full of possibilities...  Any recommendations or favorites?

17 December 2010

MIT's seasonal greetings

 These words are the president's, but mine will follow... eventually, once I've gotten sleep.

04 December 2010

Seeing the brains behind it all

by Carl Schoonover via the NYTimes

In our FAST class, we've been talking quite a bit about neuroscience and visualizations of brain activity as of late.  Tod pointed us towards this book called Portraits of the Mind, which was recently reviewed in the NYTimes.  It is a history and collection of brain visualizations, revealing both the beauty and wonder of our own hardwiring.

Sort of makes me want to be a neuroscientist... but I'll settle for having friends who are and for thinking of installations that creatively use this imagery.

29 November 2010

Playing dress up in the big league

The way my studio project is going, I might as well make use of these :

Maybe they will help me to see things extremely far away*, like utopian visions of massive housing projects overtaking the world's cities.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, it's likely you need to see the world through the eyes of an architect, albeit a visionary one in love with massive concrete structure like Le CorbusierOne blogger thinks, like me, that parts of Hong Kong have already taken Corbu's advice to heart.  Perhaps I'm only, then, continuing the tradition.

Here's an illustration of Corbu's ideas about the "natural evolution" of cities towards his massive urban planning ideals (circa 1935) :

Good bye, small scaled urban fabric.  Hello, monumentality.

More elaboration soon...

Update: Can't make it to see Le Corbusier's work in person? See it online at Artsy, a virtual gallery of his work.

* (Thankfully, I still only need to wear my real glasses when needing to see things far away - for now, that is.)

20 November 2010

The real me?

Ridiculously, I decided to question my identity rather than go to bed.

The result?

You’re book smart, moral and cool under pressure. You love learning and showing others what you know. You’re way more mature than those around you, and you always seem to know what’s best.

(And, you clearly know how to pose in front of some key London architectural icons.  And you're not afraid to get a little gritty.)

Now time for bed.  HP7 (part 1) in IMAX awaits - tonight!

12 November 2010

Rapid prototyping food

We're not quite at the level of a Star Trek replicator, the band Ok Go did introduce rapid prototyping - in the form of a laser cutter and thousands of slices of toast - to illustrate this music video:

Last Leaf

Oh the joys of stop motion and lasers...

11 November 2010

In the non-Muggle world...

... anticipation!

I promised my residents we would take a field trip, and - egads! - the premiere is almost upon us!  Time to look at tickets!


 The cover of the UK edition, which I like for its whimsical nature more than its American counterpart.

The other day, I was joking with Marcus (aka "the tall one") about the prospect of his "rent-a-tall-guy" job scheme, in which he would leverage his almost 6'-4" frame to reach the highest shelves or move things for average-to-short heighted people.  He then suggested that I have a similar "rent-a-small-person" side job, which seemed inane but... hey, I have been asked to crawl in small, tight spaces (mostly related to tunneling at Columbia...), so why didn't I just charge for those services?

Kidding aside, these conversations made me realize that, in some ways, these "rent -a-___" models are innocuous ways of renting out the capacity of your body to do something.  Here in normal law-abiding society (if you can even call it that), it means being a handyman or doing a simple service.  But what if it's unwilling rental?  And what if you're asked to do something you otherwise would never have dreamed you would be subjected to by another human being?

These questions had come up for me during what seems to be an innocent book report assignment.  For my D-Lab Schools class (aka the Cambodia class), I read Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's new book entitled Half the Sky.  Based on the Pulitzer-prize winning journalist couple's extensive travels and reporting, HtS looks at the many inequalities experienced by women in developing countries and, through giving voice to the personal stories of women they've met along the way, proposing various ways to improve their livelihoods and - essentially - change the world as we know it, “emancipat[ing] women and fight[ing] global poverty by unlocking women’s power as economic catalysts” (pg. xxii).

Lofty goal?  Perhaps so.  The NYTimes book reviewer also calls out the book's undisguised desire to “ 'recruit' the reader to join a worldwide movement to end these abuses."  This focus on women - also called "the girl effect" or "the double X solution" - reverses some societies' previously male-dominant biases by showcasing how education in particular for women can lead to delayed marriage, decreased child bearing, increased skills that can finance a family's further education, open up doors for employment and empowerment, and generally create financial independence.  Whew.

What was quite interesting to me was that these traits are all incredibly communal.  Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea, is quoted by saying this oft-repeated African proverb, "You educate a boy, and you’re educating an individual. You educate a girl, and you’re educating an entire village." Now, what is it that supposedly makes women so much more familial and outreaching than men?  This fact upon which most of these claims and much of the book are based wasn't exactly addressed.  Is it because of inherent female traits like empathy?  Because of the act of childbearing, the very direct connections with children and family members?  I'm actually not sure (maybe someone else can shed some more light on this), but this begs the question, what if we asked the question, if we were all instilled with such a strong sense of community, would we all then have the capacity to serve one another and transform society equally, regardless of gender?

After reading the book, I was both heart-wrenched by the harrowing atrocities of sex trafficking, forced suicide, and intentional medical deprivation (among other abuses), but convinced that something could be done to change these current situations.  Another Kristof article showcases "DIY foreign aid" and social entrepreneurs who start off small but end up having a large impact on the communities they serve.  What is the motivation, though?  Humanitarian work could be another topic/blog post all together, but motivation is a tricky thing to pinpoint.  To be good and help others?  But in whose image are these people made?

I can't help but think about Acts 2 and the early Church's whole-hearted devotion to one another and to those overlooked in society (women, widows, orphans).  Is this not a portrait of a life-altering reality, recognizing that each other is a unique individual made in the image of the Creator Himself?

In any rate, the book is a good one and highly recommended, although it's not for the faint of heart - or faint of resolve to make a contribution outside of our own narrow perspectives.

07 November 2010


My housemasters (and bosses) were featured in the Tech Review, in an article that talks about the 42 professors and professionals who live in dorms across campus and provide a wise head to undergrads (and grads) across campus.

Kathy and Charles have made McC their home for 18 years, and yet they seem to never tire of living in an all girls environment!  (What stamina... especially for Charles and their son Cameron, who are the only males even permitted to live here - and with their own bathroom.)  Over the short amount of time as GRT, I've grown to really appreciate their leadership and mentorship, as well as their hospitality and friendship.

It's also been interesting just with the simple adjustment to what is considered to be my job this year, although I suppose it's more of a life encompassing activity since... well, I live with my residents, share their bathroom, hear their noise, chat with them, and generally contribute to the nice smells of baked goods wafting down the halls.

We also have done things like crafts together - these photos are long overdue, but it was a fun night of playing kindergarten and using a LOT of glitter :

Project: make signs of encouragement for midterms time.

... and use as much glitter in the process as possible.

My carpet still sparkles with the remnants of that night, but I'm glad there have been happy times like that to behold.  People often comment about my living with 48 girls (between two floors, of course).  My response: fun!  lively!  drama-filled!  noisy!  (in certain pockets)  What else to expect?  I do enjoy.  And I wish I had more time to actually hang out, bake/cook extensively, and plan more hands-on activities - but alas, studio and general grad life call me as well.  Balance is life's dilemma, but thank goodness for serendipity and spontaneity that create fun spots in the mix when planning goes awry.

Revealing through raindrops

Photo by Tarsem Saini, via Desi Comments

While reading about Oliver Sachs' new book The Mind's Eye and perusing some of his research / articles, I came across the story of John Hull, who recorded his experiences and reflections as he lost his vision and then while living as a newly blinded person.  I read an excerpt from this collection entitled Touching the Rock, and his description of rain and what that means is incredibly poignant ... never thought of it in that way.  Perhaps my own senses, even as a completely able-bodied person, need honing to hear nature's concealed symphony.

One particular passage :

I hear the rain pattering on the roof above me, dripping down the walls to my left and right, splashing from the drainpipe at ground level on my left, while further over to the left there is a lighter patch as the rain falls almost inaudibly upon a large leafy shrub. On the right, it is drumming, with a deeper, steadier sound upon the lawn. I can even make out the contours of the lawn, which rises to the right in a little hill. The sound of the rain is different and shapes out the curvature for me. ... Over the whole thing, like light falling upon a landscape is the gentle background patter gathered up into one continuous murmur of rain.

I think that this experience of opening the door on a rainy garden must be similar to that which a sighted person feels when opening the curtains and seeing the world outside. Usually, when I open my front door, there are various broken sounds spread across a nothingness. I know that when I take the next step I will encounter the path, and that to the right my shoe will meet the lawn. ...  I know all these things are there but I know them from memory. ... The rain presents the fullness of an entire situation all at once, not merely remembered, not in anticipation, but actually and now...

If only rain could fall inside a room, it would help me to understand where things are in that room, to give a sense of being in the room, instead of just sitting on a chair.

This is an experience of great beauty. I feel as if the world, which is veiled until I touch it, has suddenly disclosed itself to me. I feel ! that the rain is gracious, that it has granted a gift to me, the gift of the world...

from RAIN 9 September 1983, in Touching the Rock
(italics are my own)

02 November 2010

Textures of MIT

In the last FAST class, we presented ideas for neuroscience based installations, stemming from a presentation by Professor Pawan Sinha, from the Brain and Cog department, about his research on visual neuroscience, or visualizations of how the brain learns to see and process information.  My summary doesn't do his research justice, so it might be better just to watch his TED talk instead for some very cool demonstrations of his work as applied through his non-profit in India.

In any rate, our group was massive (5 architecture students plus 1 musicology student) and we generated 3 project ideas for last week.  Kelly and I worked on one of them, which was based on the brain's gradual process of deciphering an image from its parts to the whole (particularly at the moment when a blind person regains eyesight and the brain needs to learn to see).  In this, we conceived of a texturized wall with a blank digital surface on top that people could press or rub in order to reveal the image beneath.  At first the textures would be abstract patches, but over time and from a distance, the overall image would be recognized as more people participate.

The original example image, with outlines extracting its principal elements :

Various texture abstractions of the image, with each combination affecting how one perceives the actual result :

Image of the potential installation wall :
If digitized, the image behind could change and potentially be "layered," like Old Masters paintings that have been concealed by other paintings and can only be revealed by careful stripping.  (Hm...hopefully that reference makes sense.  See the Thomas Crown Affair if not.)  In class, we  discussed potentially having the rate at which someone rubbed the wall affect the image that is revealed underneath, so that a series of images could be revealed at once that would tell a narrative relating to MIT's history or future trajectory.

This is a bit abstract, but of course, I'm procrastinating from my current work by writing this post about my work... and this is still a theoretical project.  By tomorrow, we need to conceive of a final project idea, so we'll see what comes of that.

Nothing else will do

Early mornings inspire these sort of songs.

01 November 2010

The Lo Clan in the Midwest

It was pretty funny to write that blog title.  The Lo family?  In the Midwest?  What?  But indeed, that's what has happened.  Now we no longer only bookend the United States, but we're slowly infiltrating the heartland.

In the past 2 weeks, 3 particular members celebrated getting one year older (and literally, just one year for one of them). Happy birthday to GG, Jenny, and Isaac!  Yes, all 3 in one family have birthdays from mid to the end of October.  (This was not planned.)

I snagged a few pictures from their blog, since I (sniff) won't be able to head out there in person in the near future :

 The daddy and son.

The mommy and son.

Alas, I won't be able to make it this weekend for Isaac's one year old birthday bash.  This occasion, called Tol, carries quite a bit of significance in Korean culture (and has the food to celebrate with as well!).  One of the main events is the Toljabee, in which the child's future is determined by which object he or she is attracted to from a pile set before him or her.  On the list of meanings that I found online :
  • bow and arrow: the child will become a warrior 
  • needle and thread: the child will live long 
  • jujube: the child will have many descendants 
  • book, pencil, or related items: the child will become a successful scholar 
  • rice or rice cake (or money): the child will become rich
  • ruler, needle, scissors: the child will be talented with his/her hands 
  • knife: the child will be a good cook
Some of these items seem not so safe for a one year old to be grabbing (like...a needle?  or knife?).  Anyways, based on his parents, Isaac might go for the book/pencil or ruler/scissors (... dangerous for a one year old)...  although if he follows the Biblical footsteps of Abraham, then maybe the jujube?  (Do people even put that out as an option anymore?)

In any rate, we'll hear more on Saturday!  Hopefully I'll make it out there soon...

26 October 2010

Dwelling in song and rest

This song, especially the very simple piano intro / interlude and simple lyrics, speaks to a bit of how I've been feeling lately.

(Thanks to one of those mass emails sent to our fellowship email list ... good thing I didn't delete it, or else I wouldn't have discovered Audrey Assad.)

2011 FAST Odyssey

For the FAST class, a group of us made a stop motion animation describing a potential installation we would design and make on the three intake stacks next to Building 18.  They're normally somewhat invisible within the MIT campus, so we decided to design the installation around the idea of calling attention to this industrial infrastructure by making them into mini stages for showcases using air, light, and sound to create space above.  Kelly, myself, and Yushiro each drew part of the animation, while Travis put it all together in Photoshop :

Left : visualization of sound (hitting a drum head corresponds to a puff of smoke in one direction or the other)

Center : play of light and shadow (fog becomes a curtain on which an image can be projected, with people able to play and cast shadows both while outside and inside the circle)

Right : visible air movement (jumping on the vents causes the fog machine to rise and fall, creating a denser atmosphere when closer to the ground or a more translucent one when higher up)

We've been brainstorming various installation ideas, so we'll see what ends up being built for next year's MIT 150.

23 October 2010

Tying together the three strands

Seeing your best friend get married is somehow a more vocal reminder that we're - well - adults now.  For real.  It's not as if I haven't had close friends get married (and indeed, there have been MANY wedding bells since right after college graduation...goodness - in a good way), but somehow it was different this time around.  Jeanette (aka Confetti, or the Chinese lass) and Steve (aka the Hampshire country boy) tied the knot of three strands last weekend, among the gorgeous fall foliage of New England.  It was a delightful day and a half spent helping to prep for the big day, and then witnessing (with the other silly bridesmaids) the joining of two lives into one beautiful union under God.

Now it's time for some photo moments, where my words don't do justice :

Sunrise on the big day!  The bridemaids woke up around 6:30 (or was it 7?), but the dutiful bride woke up at 5:45 sharp and then apologized for making so much noise with the hair dryer... to which we responded, "Um, you're getting married today!  Don't apologize!"

On the way!  This was my first time riding in a stretch SUV, and I must say it was cozy - cozy enough to cozy up to the bride :D

The lovely bouquets made by loving hands.

 Oh, how glad I am that Jeanette married a guy who is equally silly and ridiculous.  At least I don't have to worry that she'll lose her sense of humor - on the contrary, they will likely get sillier as time goes on, and I look forward to that!

No, this photo is not staged.  Yes, Steve looks scary.  No, we are not some sort of mafia family.

Dance party!  Maybe this is what I look like from the vantage point of the tall one.  That puts things into perspective.

Whizzing back to the city...  Oh, the delights of autumn - how quickly they pass, how lovely still.

I had the great honor of delivering the toast for the bride.  Although I had started thinking about it a couple weeks earlier, I hadn't actually written anything down until the day before.  My scrawled notes just didn't seem to do justice to this responsibility, so I resorted to parking myself in the hotel business center and not getting up until I had something adequate to say to someone I've known for 22 years ... and something that I (and Jnet) wouldn't feel embarrassed about when memories of it would be recounted to us for years to come.  After several rewrites, I finally came up with something that somehow began to express elements of our friendship-turned-sisterhood.  There was a point when Jeanette came over during my writing frenzy, and I had to quickly scroll to a blank spot in my Word Doc and look at her with innocent eyes.  Of course she wasn't deceived, but at least I managed to keep this a surprise until the moment of delivery.

I'm not going to recount all of it here, although I will share the end part of the toast, which involved getting half the guests to sing along with me to a doctored version (pun...intended) of "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?".  These are the lyrics I printed out and demonstrated for the guests to get them on board with my ridiculous idea :

So… can’t we all feel the love this afternoon?
Can’t we?
- - -
NOTE: SING when you see italics
- - -
We could see what was happening.
And they somehow had a clue!
Jeanette and Steve fell in love, and here’s the bottom line – our group is down by two.
The sweet caress of lab lights… there was magic (not malaria) everywhere!  And with all this romantic atmosphere…  a wedding’s in the aaaaaaairrrrr…
Can you feel the love today?
The peace the noon sun brings
Penacook, for once, in perfect harmony
With all its living things.
Can you feel the love today?
You needn't look too far
A Chinese lass, her Hampshire country boy,
Love is where they are…

[ toast ]

Somehow, the whole celebration would not have been complete nor authentically Jeanette (and Steve) unless a Disney song were sung in public.  (This is just my own thinking, so anyone is allowed to contend with it.)

In light of all of this, it's heartwarming to be reminded of how God has perfectly crafted the marriage relationship (and ministry) from imperfect people (whom He is making perfect).  And with that thought, I bid thee good night, and also hope that J+S are thoroughly enjoying their honeymoon and escape from reality (and internet access... fingers crossed).

20 October 2010

A place to rest one's head -

- only.

When looking up examples of capsule hotels, which is a Japanese idiosyncrasy and result of ultra optimization of space, I came across this one called Nine Hours - named for the time it takes for you to sleep and get ready.  Although it looks more like a wall of ovens (or worse, a wall of graves) rather than a wall of beds, what caught my eye was actually the list of rules on their website, which are as follows:

9h may refuse the conclusion of the contract in any of the following cases.
  • When 9h is fully booked and no sleeping pods are available.
  • When 9h is unable to provide accommodation due to natural calamities,
    malfunction of the facilities or other unavoidable causes.
  • Services beyond those provided are requested.
  • When the Guest seeking accommodation is deemed liable to act in violation of public morals,
    or conduct their selves in a disorderly manner.
  • When it is obviously acknowledged that the Guest is an infectious case.
  • When the Guest is heavily-intoxicated. This applies even after Check-in.
  • When the Guest speaks or acts in a manner that is deemed an annoyance to other guests.
  • When the Guest seeking accommodation is a member of, or involved with, gang organizations,
    crime syndicates or any antisocial groups.
  • When the Guest speaks or acts in a manner that is deemed an annoyance to other guests.
  • If 9h terminates the contract when the circumstances come under any of the above mentioned articles,
    9h will not charge the Guest for any of the services in future during the contractual period which he/she has not received.
Hilarious.... and somewhat disturbing at the same time.  The website says explicitly that the floors and elevators are separated by gender as well.  This makes me wonder what type of person uses these sorts of hotels - not simply business people on the go?  Does the architecture encourage the kinds of behavior of the guests, or the other way around?  Does morality fit into the picture?

In any rate, I don't think this is exactly what Kisho Kurokawa, architect of the Nakagin Capsule Tower, had intended when he built the first of capsule hotels in the 1970s, more under the premise of accommodating change and recyclability within architecture as part of the Metabolist movement.

    13 October 2010

    Faith among fall foliage

    Once upon a time last year, we debuted the GCF worship band :

     After a year and a circuitous path taken ...

    ... and perhaps another circuitous route taken this year as well ...

    ... the worship band shuffled around, gained some new faces and retired other ones, developed diversity across schools, and adopted version 2 in this year's grad retreat back at Toah Nipi :

    Lesson?  Great is God's faithfulness!  I will snatch a verse shared by one of the other band members, that encapsulates the joint effort well:
    For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
    1 Corinthians 12:12

    11 of us, (literally and figuratively) under the leadership of the man friend, were enabled by a common Spirit to find time and practice together, harmonize and blend, listen for each other's melodious (and occasionally discordant) sounds, rehearse 3 worship sets, and even simply get along as brothers and sisters.  I was personally thankful for the opportunity to experience God's joy through worship with such gifted musicians, and amazed at the limitless grace given even when our practice time was short or when logistics didn't coast out as planned.  It was also humbling to have to surrender: surrender my role as worship leader to those equally or likely more competent, surrender the need to be needed, surrender perfection...  among other things.

    But in return, the gifts given far outweighed and surpassed any prior expectations.  :]

    Outside of worship, the retreat was satisfying - not physically restful, but a good time spent gaining insights into the woman at the well, canoeing on the cool water while singing Disney songs at the top of our lungs, hiking in literal loops and circles to Massachusetts and back (and getting minimally whipped in the face with stray branches), laughing hysterically at absurdities during a rowdy game of Psychiatrist, and eating delicious foods made by willing hands ...

    ... which are are among my favorite things :
    good fellowship, good food, good praise+worship, all in the great outdoors of Creation (with ample crunchy leaves underfoot!).

    11 October 2010

    Guastavino as a first word

    St. Paul's Chapel at Columbia University houses an example of Guastavino's work

    I thought that getting tenure meant that professors get to take a breather, but not my structures professor, John O.  Instead, he's been teaching his kids to say "Guastavino" almost before they could say "dada," and now has published a book on the thin brick vault master who inspired some of our own vaults.  Although I'm not sure how much brick laying I'll be doing in the near future, it's still cool to read a feature about his own research outside of teaching and how it has influenced my own education.

    It also makes me ask myself a question I've begun to ponder in the last few months: what is it that will be my own research focus (or, dare I say research obsession)?  In some ways, the MArch degree doesn't really prepare you to give a good answer until our very last year (or half year) of thesis, although research through design methods is hopefully what we'll leave with - or at least, what I'm determined to leave with.

    07 October 2010

    Story time

    On reading aloud :

    This, or something like it, is what happens when you get caught up in a book. You hear it in your head, and it takes over your waking existence a little, so you can’t wait to be done with whatever you’re doing and immerse yourself in the pages again. ...

    Listening is how we begin our acquaintance with books, as our parents read them to us, and listening may be how we phase out of books as well; it’s easier, hypnotic almost, and allows you to do something else at the same time: drive, jog or attend to your e-mail. ...

    Our reading and listening imaginations do much the same thing. Reading in bed, riding the subway with the iPod plugged in, driving the car and feeding CDs into the dashboard slot, we’re not transported from this life to another, exactly, but to a sort of halfway realm. We’re partly in East Egg, or wherever, and partly still in that cluttered mental office, where the phone rings — literally sometimes. We look out the window and see, oops, that we’ve just missed our subway stop or, worse, that a state trooper has just pulled alongside and he has his lights flashing.

    from Charles McGrath's NYTimes review of "Gatz," based on The Great Gatsby

    It's been a long time since someone has read a novel aloud to me, although it's a commonplace activity when it comes to church or Bible study and we read collectively read Scripture.  Somehow it's different, though, to have actual "story time."  Jim Dale, who narrates all of the Harry Potter books, is a superb example of a great reader, voices and all.  There's part nostalgia mixed in with theatrics and immersion - and yes, even some laziness of the brain, as McGrath mentions in his article.

    Someone reading aloud does carry a different weight than reading on your own, although I would argue that it's not just about your own ability to concentrate on what's being said, but has equal parts to do with your building relationship with that particular book and your relationship with the narrator.  I don't ever recall my parents reading to me, but when I've read to children or attended public readings by authors, there's a sense of intangible connection between the words you speak, your voice, and the ear that listens.

    Hm, I wouldn't mind a bedtime story now and again.

    05 October 2010

    These are the days

    What a way to wake up in the middle of a long studio night-day:

    02 October 2010

    MIT 150 : Celebrating...what?

    The bustle in the connection between the Infinite and the extension
    The buzz is starting on campus and events are being readied for MIT's 150th birthday celebration.  Although this number doesn't seem very large, in comparison to some other gray-haired alma maters, but looking at what the Institute has become on a global scale and the people and work that has been produced in that time...  all I can say is that I'm proud to be fortunate enough to have been at Columbia to celebrate its 250th, and now at MIT to celebrate this sesquicentennial* milestone.

    The calendar is full of events, highlighting the faculty and student body's research work, performances, innovations, social capital, among a vast spectrum of topics.  This semester, I'm actually taking the FAST class - Festival of Arts, Science, and Technology - that centers around designing installations to showcase the creative arts as extensions of the Infinite Corridor.  My professor, Tod Machover, known for his musical compositions with a techno-bent, has been introducing us to a slew of faculty like Evan Ziporyn (Music) and Marty + Erik Demaine (Visual Arts and Computer Science) who are doing some amazing (and occasionally obscure) work.  It all sounds incredibly exciting...

    ... but there's a hole in this narrative.  The topics covered range from the above mentioned to econ/finance to music to cancer research to neuroscience to explorations of the natural world and women in science, which are all great points of discussion ...

    ... but what about that intangible facet of campus life, that of the spiritual?  Does faith have a place at MIT?  Or, perhaps more pointedly, does MIT have a soul?**  I ask this not simply because I'm a Christian, but because I've seen how vibrant a faith culture there is here on campus.  This missing link seems glaringly obvious, but has apparently slipped through the cracks in favor of the more "obvious" topics of celebration.

    Just a thought, but where do we stand - not just in the Infinite Corridor but in infinity?

    - - -

    * Not my word usage, but MIT's
    ** Also not mine, but from Chris of The Veritas Forum

    28 September 2010

    Visualizing the City

    Some highlights, pre-social networking site placement (that ubiquitous platform for all knowledge...):

      My '08-ers are all grown up!  (And I can still do self-takes.)

    Favorite funny couple responded well to my prompt to look happy ... and made me laugh, haha.

    IV-ers and friends reunite from across the country for Christine + Jonathan's happy day.

    The Talaminis get a raucous send off outside of the romantic Wien Hall.  (Oh, Columbia...)

    A lovely fern on my Stumptown macchiato and buttery croissant bid me a NYC farewell.

    26 September 2010

    NYC-style remembrances

     NYC love remains, even to the end.
    More photos to come, once I download them to my computer.

    Every time I visit NYC, I remember just how much I miss the City.  Of course, I'm happy to be in Boston and know for certain that it's the place where I'm meant to be right now, but excursions down the coast are always like mini homecomings of sorts.  This time around, the reminders came in various forms:
    • The end is the beginning
      Celebrating Christine and Jonathan's wedding together with old friends made for a splendid reason for being in the City even for one short day.  They were one of those couples who seem like they've been together forever (well since college, which almost seems like ages ago...), and witnessing their happy day was an end to their wait but also the beginning of a new adventure, probably one that will feature pandas and piano serenades in addition to their faith in God.

      As an aside, I like how the pastor shared using Colossians 3:12-14 rather than 1 Corinthians 13: maybe it's bad to suggest that weddings are cliche, but the latter is so typically quoted that it was refreshing to meditate on a different part of scripture in relation to marriage.
      (In self defense, 1 C. 13 is still very poignant and true, but it's also not a monopoly.)
    • Old faces never age
      ... literally and figuratively.  My friends - even the non-Asian ones - somehow have the Peter Pan gene and look the same.  Their ridiculous dance moves are also the same...  but it was awesome to have a reunion with people I haven't seen for a while.  Some of the news revealed was surprising ("What, you're engaged?!"), while other conversations were more of a confirmation of news procured in other ways ("Are you J's fiance?  I saw your picture on Facebook, and no I'm not a stalker." - I confess this was me...)  Chilling out on a rooftop after the wedding festivities, challenging our brains at Contact and Categories (thanks to Steph's expansive pool of group games), and squashing roaches with paper bag-encased feet made for a great end to the night.
    • The vault lives on
      Although I didn't have time to make my way over to the Cooper Hewitt, the vault installation (Vault201) still lives in the 2nd floor exhibition space and will be there until January!  Check out freelancer Logan Ward's article in the Smithsonian Magazine for more.  Our names aren't in the article, but you'll find them on the wall placard in the museum.
    • Driving in the City is a video game
      ...especially after years of not driving in Manhattan.  Nothing like weaving taxi drivers and nonexistent lane lines to wake you up at midnight.
    • It's delicious
      A late night grilled cheese from HamDel (or Hammie's - take your pick of monikers).  A macchiato, croissant, and pretzel sandwich from Stumptown.  Boston, I'm determined to find simple ways in which you can compete.

    ... but back to the realities of Boston, school, and new life developments.  More updates soon.

    13 September 2010

    Hong Kong revisited

    I left Hong Kong on August 6th, and realized I will be returning there - if only virtually - this semester through the [HALT] studio (Highly Accelerated Life Test), with critics Shih-Fu Peng and Roisin Heneghan of henegan.peng architects.  They were interviewed recently in Fast Company magazine regarding their winning of the Grand Museum of Egypt project.  I found it amusing (and a bit touching) to hear that the secret behind their collaboration is marriage, which is what happens with many partners of architecture firms, either before they form their companies or afterwards.  Divorce also happens, but I suppose a shared passion can be a great bond for creative work.

    (Thanks to Otto for sharing the video with me and making me remember my hyperactive city of the summer.)

    11 September 2010

    "No, this is not a PhD..."

    There are 2 phrases I've had to repeat an innumerable number of times since being back in Cambridge:

    "No, I'm not a freshman but a graduate student - your Graduate Resident Tutor."

    "No, this is not a PhD..."

    Oh, the realities of the 3.5 year MArch reality.  Things are not what they seem!  I had confirmation for the second phrase, from my dear friend and former suitemate Vidya, who in astonishment after hearing I still had a year and a half exclaimed:

    oh jeez
    this is seriously the longest masters program ever
    you guys deserve a PhD

    (P.S. I apologize for quoting you without asking for permission, but hey - this Gchat conversation was technically on the record.)

    I actually did consider those last three words, the idea of "deserving" a PhD.  What actually goes into a doctorate as opposed to a masters?  What this hilarious blog post shared by a couple friends (thanks to Marcus and Clarence) suggests is that it's about specialization, diving deeply into an area and gaining specific expertise through research.  This simplified definition would then not actually apply to what I'm doing now.  Sure, I'm around for a length of time that seems like a short PhD, but considering the number of requirements that fills the MArch trajectory, I'm only now finding breathing room to begin asking the question, what is it that I'm really interested in investigating?  And now with a year and a half, with only the last semester fully devoted to thesis, it's hard to imagine being able to explore any topic in depth.

    Wrestle wrestle...  Architecture in practice doesn't value PhDs as much as academia, and I'm not sure if I'm necessarily cut out for the long haul of research divorced from working on the ground with real issues.  (This is where I probably have a more engineering than scientist mindset... although I still revolt against the engineer label.)  To be honest, though, I actually do really enjoy research, but only that which resides outside of labs and in people's lives.  (And that which involves travel, haha.)

    To stay in academics or to go?  I'm hoping for a sign.

    07 September 2010

    [HK 40] : Shake shake shake...

    This retroactive post is in honor of a certain Miss L, who has a certain penchant for Mr. McD that we make fun of.  She would very much enjoy this HK-based snack (photos of which I found while rummaging through my summer archive), which even made me crave fast food - mmm crispy deliciousness.

    1. Look at the bag and savor the flavor party in store.  (Sadly enough, shake shake fries aren't to be found in the States.)

    2. Read the instructions.  It's a complicated process.

    3. Defy the instructions.  Based on insider information (aka Liana), it's best to add the seasoning first.  Seaweed was definitely my favorite.

    4. After pouring in the seasoning, dump freshly made fries into bag.

    5. (not pictured for obvious reasons) Shake...shake...shake!

    6. Take a look to make sure the seasoning has been distributed evenly across all well-greased surfaces.

    7. Enjoy.

    - - -

    I had wanted to use similar graphics like in step #2 for the shaved ice socials, but didn't have enough time to do so.  Perhaps by Thursday...

    06 September 2010

    3 years and counting

    3 years sounds like a long time to spend with one person, but it boggled my mind recently to realize that my brother and sister in law recently celebrated their 3rd year wedding anniversary.  So short and yet so long - now, which one is it?

    No, they don't have 2 kids: that's Jenny's niece.  All photos snagged from their blog.

    In that time, they ...
    ... moved to England and back, finished the Operation World manuscript, acted in pageants for an all-girls grammar school as one of the few young male teachers, become part of a thriving church community, met our "long lost" cousins in England, devotedly kept up a blog of their adventures, started to spell words in the British manner but not speak in the English way, had Isaac (my nephew), entertained a slew of visiting family and friends (including the Lo fam), visited the States with a barely-3 month old baby in tow, and now are starting another life journey in the Midwest and PhD land... among too many other things to name.

     And we went to the zoo, where Isaac exercised his grip of iron on his dad's hair.
    I also became a fob for the day.

    What else happens in 3 years?

    In the measure of my own life, I ...
    ... finished my first job at an architecture firm, completed 2 years of grad school, pulled the most all nighters in my life, built a couple brick vaults, jetsetted abroad for work/study (and play) purposes (England, El Salvador, Spain, Japan, China, Thailand), was a bridesmaid in 2 weddings, celebrated countless weddings/engagements/babies of friends and family, became part of a thriving grad Christian fellowship, started playing the flute again, honed my "bless you" reputation...  among others.

    Is it useful to list such accomplishments?  If to boast, perhaps not, although as a reflection and a reminder to be thankful, likely so.  It also reminds me of how blessed I've been by what God's done in my brother and Jenny's lives.

    One thing I've learned from their marriage is the fact that you're not simply becoming the wife/husband for another person, but you're also going to be the sister/brother to that person's siblings, daughter/son to their parents, a friend to their friends, etc.  Scary thought, eh?  (Good thing I like meeting new people...phew.)  I think I've mentioned this before, but I say again that it's been great having the gift of an older sister after my bro married Jenny, and I just hope that I can be as good of a sister to future Mr.'s siblings as well... if/when that becomes a relevant statement.

    Until then, my next foreseeable milestone is graduation in a deceptively long but actually short 1.5 years.  What will happen in that time, I'm not sure, but at least there's a sense of great expectancy for both myself and God's work at MIT.

    05 September 2010

    The ladies of the "house"

    I'm already having slightly dismal thoughts about my ability to upkeep this blog during the semester, but let's not disappoint ahead of ourselves.  The last 2 weeks of being back at school have been filled with multiple responsibilities that come with being a graduate resident tutor for undergrad ladies, one of them being the making of door tags :

    I must say that I'm quite proud of them, although they did take quite a bit more time than I had anticipated to make.  (If only I had taken advantage of someone's laser cutter privileges, these 49 tags would have zipped by...alas.)  To be honest, though, it gave me quite a bit of joy to hand cut and glue these babies - as a gesture of love and care for my residents, even though I haven't met them or have only known them for a short amount of time.  (I mean this in the most honest and non-sentimental way possible.)

    To use pre-existing materials and not have to print anything or buy extra supplies, I had rummaged through my architectural supplies and ended up cutting up some pieces of old museum board and gluing on strips of color/texture, which were sliced from old magazine ads and photos.  (If you look closely, you'll be able to tell.)  Then I wrote their names in charcoal, although didn't remember to buy any spray fix, so they can still smudge if touched.

    The girls were sweet, with some of them leaving me messages on my whiteboard or coming by to convey their appreciation.  One of them, who doesn't even live on my floor, asked if she could have one as well.  Ah, the ultimate complement :]  I realized it's small labors like these that make a difference, little steps towards creating a sense of home.

    Next task: brainstorming a good first meeting sweet delight.

    25 August 2010

    For the love of breakfast

    New York graphic designer Erin Jang's post on this series of breakfast spreads for Esquire magazine looked so delicious, I instantly wanted to make breakfast.

    ...Which I will do after concluding this post.

    ...Which brings me to my reoccurring hobby and constant delight in making breakfast, eating breakfast, and thinking about whatever else having to do with breakfast (including the entire Joie de Vivre line of egg products, of which Jen and Eric probably own at least half !!). I'm not sure when I first discovered this love, but it is my favorite meal of the day and one of my beloved ways to celebrate the weekend, the end of the term, or just being with friends.

    Eggs are an essential part of the whole ensemble and a part I think I need to work a bit on in terms of culinary versatility. But why eggs? Although they're said to be a mere baby step in the world of cooking (i.e. "at least he can fry an egg"), take Julia Child for example: her instructor at the Cordon Bleu in Paris made her go through 15+ iterations before declaring she could make a single egg correctly and could move on to omelets (omelettes?).

    Practice with the simple makes the complex perfect, I suppose.

    19 August 2010

    Where are the beans in Beantown?

    Regardless of answerless questions, it is what it is, and it's nice being back.

    17 August 2010

    [HK 39] : Readerly respect

    Bookstores in general are one of my favorite places to be, whether in Hong Kong or elsewhere.  And of the things I brought back from the summer, they generally fall into these main categories:
    • clothes
    • food
    • books and stationary
    Although I prefer small local bookshops to corporate conglomerates, the largest bookstore chain in HK - Page One - gets huge props from me for having an excellent selection of both English and Chinese books, as well as a very sizable art and architecture section.  They also seem to have a deep respect for the books themselves:

    Yes, this book is neatly wrapped in plastic - so nice!  On the shelf, there was usually one browsing copy, with the rest wrapped and ensured to be in great condition for purchase.  I'm not sure if this is a remnant from the SARS days and ultra sanitation, but whatever it is, I'm glad for this small gesture of attention.

    Now, if only I could get Isaac to pay the same respect to books instead of deciding to eat them...

    10 August 2010

    Baby proofing

    My recent homecoming pales in comparison to the recent arrival of my brother, sister in law, and nephew, who have been away in England for the past 2 years (well, Isaac I guess only 9 months) and have just returned shortly before I arrived.  The last time I saw the little guy above (the top one, not the one below) was when he was 3 months old, so in that short period of time he's grown so big!  He's much more expressive now and also more energetic, so we get tired out from running after him as he crawls or struggles to squirm away during diaper changes.  I've also learned that I have to be a bit less vain about my wardrobe, since whatever I wear ends up getting covered in drool and mashed up food.

    Ah well, best to be humble anyways.