27 February 2010

Illiteracy and its remedies - or not

(via The New York Times - thanks to Paul Sahre and Jonas Beuchert)

Cathleen Schine's opinion piece in yesterday's NYTimes made me laugh, not only because my age popped up in the first 5 words of the article, but for its honest confession of feeling stupid to the point of illiteracy in the shadow of her friends' "culturedness" and her discovery of love through the investigation of her husband's bookcase. (Among other gems.)

Sometimes this has happened to me, most often in the academic architectural context, which - if any of you have ever listened to a conversation before - is chock filled to the brim with references to such-and-such 18th c. French philosopher and what we affectionately call "archispeak." Sometimes terms are simply invented, but often are common words (i.e. program, space, pedagogy, big box, elevation) that take on a use within the discipline that's incomprehensible to those outside. One of these days I will make a list of terms floating around in the heady air within buildings 3, 5, 7, and 9, but in the meantime, here's a funny Grasshopper script that randomly generates archispeak sentences like:
“Based upon interdisciplinary considerations the by-product of repetitive space articulation adds specific critical path events to the study of true fecundity in the state of the art.”
Thoughts on what that means? Or, who the idiot really is? (This is really the tip of a larger iceberg on accessibility, but that will wait for another day.)

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Back to the topic at hand (books, not stupidity), one of my instinctive habits is to examine people's bookshelves, whether at their desks or in their apartments. It's a gravitational pull - I can't help but be drawn in and rotate around it, taking in the titles and constructing a mental portrait of the owner. What can I say - I'm nosy! (And I like organizing books, as my childhood hobby of writing out my own card catalog would reveal...) This sort of observation does serve as a good little personality and personal preference profile of my friends and acquaintances, along with acting as a superb way to jumpstart conversation and find potential reading materials.

Hands down, the best people to borrow books from have been Dianna/Ryan and Gautam, friends with overflowing shelves and equally overflowing generosity in lending me their volumes in bulk.

24 February 2010

Food lessons from Food52

I just recently discovered the Food52 project, started by 2 professional women who love to cook and write about cooking and food. Their site is unique, not because it collects recipes uploaded by members of the community (which allrecipes.com and other recipes do as well), but it has a focus on good food and cooking as a way to bring the local and sustainable (not to mention healthy and fun) back to the table. There are also features and blog posts... And it was started by a cookbook project, which is a mountain of an endeavor but an intriguing one as well (in the spirit of Julia Child and Julie, her contemporary namesake of note).

I also just really like their food photography - such simplicity in the vibrant color and play of light in just a snapshot of raw ingredients. If these look this good, then imagine how delish the end result must be... !

The creators' "About" pages have a clever profile model, which I decided to fill out for myself below. If you feel inclined, share your own (food related or not) profile, too - I'm a fan of learning random things about people.
  • Flavor: lemon verbena
  • Tool: chopsticks or hand grinder (outside the kitchen, of course)
  • Apron: no
  • Desert island meal: baguette, goat cheese, pomegranates and mint iced tea
  • Would like to have dinner with: C.S. Lewis
  • Doesn’t like: pickles (from cucumbers) or ketchup
  • Kitchen store: (I'll respond with my favorite bookstores) The Strand in NYC or Joseph Fox Bookshop on Sansom St. in Philly
  • Place: I have yet to really find one in Boston/Cambridge, although Newbury St., Toscanini's, and the Isabella Gardner Museum are great staple spots.
  • Book: food related: My Life in France (J.Child)
    non-food related: P&P (J.Austen), The Phantom Tollbooth (N.Juster), among others

22 February 2010

Mini recap

Yes, I am alive. I just recently returned to normal life programming, after the planning marathon called the Veritas Forum concluded last night with a great turnout (+700 people over 2 nights) and many willing and helping hands to make it run smoothly. But with that and everything else that's been going on since I got back to Cambridge for IAP... there's been little down time to update this sad blog. So, a recap in images:

From last semester : the size of one of my drawings was 10 ft. long (and I had 2 of them.)

09.Jan : Zach and Gloria got married at last! I unfortunately don't have photos from that, since I was in the wedding band and too busy holding my flute... so there were other designated photographers. I also turned 2.718... I mean, 25+1. (Delicious ice cream cake was courtesy of loving MIT friends, of course.)

IAP 2010 : The MIT MRG (Masonry Research Group) built a prototype vault in preparation for the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum installation in March. I sadly wasn't there for the testing nor the ultimate (intentional) destruction, but it was certainly a big feat for us, from computational design to a crashing finish. It ended on the ground because we were conducting structural tests to failure. Vault win! See our project blog for more info. The project will be featured in the Smithsonian magazine.

22-24.Jan : Spent 3 short days in the Emerald City with two fellow Ozzian explorers. We came, we saw, we conquered. After watching the fabulously Wicked musical, we walked through 2 boroughs, making periodic pit stops to see well-missed friends and eat. And eat. Those macarons from Bouchon bakery were just the tip of the iceberg. Boston's fooding venues just don't hold a candle to the mountains of places (especially cupcake bakeries) to be found in the City. NYC and friends, how I miss thee.

29.Jan : Brunch at Paramount with two lovely ladies (Reemer as the photographer). Oh my favorite meal of the day... and the wait was really not that long at all!

19-20.Feb : The MIT Veritas Forum asked the little-posed question, "What is (true) Freedom?", examined from scientific, social, and spiritual standpoints. It kicked off with an event for the neuroscientists and psychologists in each of us, with questions about the brain, our freedom to make choices, and what it means for human morality. The second night, we heard a powerful testimony of enslavement and redemption. Planning the Forum took over much of my life, but I'm thankful for what I've learned from the process, from the nights themselves, and from the many people who helped put it together. God is so good :)

Present : This is actually my room a few months back. (Sadly enough, that clear space under the window is no long empty.) But it encapsulates where I am now off to - BED.

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Next update: Studio for this semester, classes, and the focus of Lent.