17 December 2012

'Tis the season to...

... love.

Do I think about this, now in the season of Advent leading up to Christmas?  Sometimes, but not particularly.  I've been occupied with wrapping gifts and writing cards, scheduling dinner dates and planning our honeymoon.  None of these are bad things, really, and they do give joy to others and even myself.  But in midst of this, I'm reminded that there are still more opportunities to show love, maybe to those I don't think of first: the poor, the hungry, the thirsty, the lonely, the marginalized, the powerless.

A video by Advent Conspiracy, with a song by Chris Tomlin on the topic.  Enjoy!

30 November 2012

Preview of the Mr. and Mrs.

People keep asking me, "Where are your wedding photos?  Can I see them?"  And my answer is "... not yet!  Unless you want to see slightly shaky iPhone shots of us taken by guests."  Smiley face.

These types proliferate in social media, but the benefit and negative to having a professional wedding and editorial photographer take your pictures is that 1) he likely took thousands of photos from the wedding and needs to sift through them to find the good ones and touch them up, and 2) because he does wedding photography, he is also off just about every weekend shooting other weddings and being a photojournalist .. meaning there is a back log of work.  And your photos are not always hovering at the top of his to do list.

But no matter.  I'm patient.  And there is at least one photo I can present as a preview!  I requested a shot to use in time for Christmas, and here it is:

I should note that I was VERY cold.  My goosebumps are probably visible in the RAW file of this image.  But this shot still makes for a good "first look" :)  You can imagine what our dialogue must have been like.

03 November 2012

[the big day] Married indeed

"If I get married, I want to be very married."
// Audrey Hepburn

Indeed!  :)

02 October 2012

[the big day] Couple photo

Marcus and I have a tendency to take particular sorts of "couple photos" -- not typically ones of us caught in some tight embrace, but rather of the impersonal sort without either of us in them.  I don't remember when this developed, but we got in the habit of finding two objects of the same type but different sizes -- and laughing hilariously while taking pictures of those items.  People in cafes, grocery stores, and other places must have found us weird.

During our semi-impromptu engagement photo session with Po-Ru all those months back this summer, what good fortune did we have but to find an awesome couple photo awaiting us in the Toah Nipi kitchen?  Industrial sized spice jug meets tiny household spice rack inhabitant.  A spicy mix!

<3 p="p">
- - -
Photo by Po-Ru Loh, who was a good sport about indulging our idiosyncrasies.

01 October 2012

[yele] A retroactive "tour"

As I was combing through the files on my computer, I came across a slew of video clips I had taken while in Yele this past January. This one in particular brought back some good memories of the village the eLuma team called home for 3 weeks:


Sights seen include the local primary school and shops around the main Junction, or intersection in the village.  The ride is a bit bumpy, but that's because of the rock-filled roads and not because of Anna's driving :)

20 August 2012

New year, new tags

One of my favorite things to do leading up to the fall semester is making new door tags for the undergraduate residents I live with.  What made this year's process even more exciting and different was having Marcus to help make them -- not that he hasn't helped in the past, but this time around he is a full-on GRT* instead of a spectator-helper.  Woo!

I was happy to be able to use the random and long-disused supplies I've accumulated over the years in architecture school.  The museum board?  From my stash of model making materials.  The india ink?  From an unopened refill left from my own college days (of yore) when I used to hand-ink drawings on mylar (... those were the days indeed).  All put to good use and finding happy homes.

Color code:
-- left paper strip designates the resident's year
-- right paper strip designates the suite she lives in

This year is also pretty different for another reason: the women for whom we made the door tags live in a completely different part of the dorm.  It was determined at the beginning of the year that I (with Marcus joining me) would be GRTs in the East Tower, moving from my home of two years in the West Tower.  It's a decision that was initially hard to digest, and the reality of it has been on my mind in the past couple weeks of settling into my new apartment and gearing up for the year.  On the one hand, I'm definitely excited to meet all the ladies of 6+7E and to have Marcus join me in making a community (and Tall Man brownies) with them.  It's also bittersweet because I've really grown to love the ladies of 4+5W.  What a mixed bag of emotions...  At least it's good knowing that they'll have great GRTs themselves, and that the space between East and West can be bridged easily.  And there are that many more cool McCormick women to know and bond with.

One thing I've noticed: the boundaries between 'territories' are flexible lines.  We each have a certain 'jurisdiction' of residents in the dorm, but when it comes down to it, the more connections the better the McC experience -- for myself as much as for the ladies who live here.  No one can physically be in two places at once, but we can each be - in some sense - GRTs for everyone.  Sounds cheesy, but somehow it's true.

Hello ladies -- let the new year begin!

(and now I go to bed.)

* GRT = graduate resident tutor

18 August 2012

Students finally able to "duck and cover"

A student and his professor at Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem have designed a desk that can withstand 1 tonne of vertical force -- what they call an "earthquake proof table" that students can use to "duck and cover" during an earthquake.

It seems like an interesting concept, especially in developing countries where building construction is often sub-par.  However, the article featured on GOOD suggests that these tables can substitute for the more costly measures of wall reinforcement or reconstructing schools to be more earthquake-resistant.  While I agree that this kind of furniture could save lives and save money in light of more difficult infrastructural and architectural changes, I wonder if it might become a way to not improve construction methods because desks essentially provide the safe roof overhead.

The table is still a pretty great design innovation, in spite of these larger questions of feasibility and intention in the longer run.   It's also certainly creative and makes me rethink what really is part of the build environment that can be leveraged for life safety while being well designed.

13 July 2012

Vacation criteria for architects

How to choose your next vacation destination with a supposed architectural mindset, from Architectural Record's think | architect blog:
  1. Rule out Disneyland, any beach and camping. These places are off limits (this is mostly my rule).
  2. Choose a general location based on where you have not been yet.
  3. Choose a location based on architecture you have not seen yet. (Why do you go on vacation?)
  4. Choose a specific location based on restaurants you have not eaten at yet and don’t have at home.
  5. Choose a location that has a history that precedes the century your parents were born.
  6. Visit places that you cannot see anything like at home.
  7. Find places that allow you to sight-see without needing a car. In other words, you’ll need to walk (or use public transportation) for some part of your vacationing plans.
  8. Find places that will make for great photographs.
  9. Find places that have unique bookstores and coffee shops.
  10. And last, but probably most important, choose places that make your family happy (without breaking the first rule).
I would disagree with #1, #2 (... what about family?), and #5, although I do prefer older locales.  And in thinking about my own vacation-planning habits, here are some ways how Marcus and I pick out our honeymoon destination:
  1. Determine the area of the world that you most want to explore -- either one of you has never been there, or one of you really wants to go back. [Europe]
  2. Choose countries based on burning personal interests. [France, the UK]
  3. Choose specific locations while balancing places you would love to return to vs. places (architectural or otherwise) you have not been yet but have wanted to go to for a while... along with the time frame and budget.  [Paris, Mont St. Michel, London, Edinburgh]
  4. Hone the itinerary by concentrating on visiting a few places for longer periods of time, and choosing areas with unique local culture, food, and sights.  [Paris, Mont St. Michel, Glasgow, Scottish Highlands, Edinburgh]
  5. Confirm your choices based on local events and the number of tourists who will be there at that time.  [New Year's in Paris; Tourist sights advise going to Scotland only between May and October.  Check.]
  6. Find activities that will make for awesome photographs. ['Stalking' in the Highlands, Mont St. Michel at low tide, Parisian cemeteries]
  7. Ask for recommendations on good food, unique bookstores and coffee shops, off-the-beaten path sights, that sort of thing.
  8. Choose places that the both of you can agree on and get excited about.  [Check!]
  9. Don't get uptight about the rules.  It's not a rational process, after all.

02 July 2012

The start of a good relationship

"If music be the food of love,
play on." 
-- from Twelth Night (coincidentally sourced from an MIT website)

found via Explore

28 June 2012

Misplaced audience + other news

“Sometimes, I can’t tell if they’re talking to potential clients, or to other architects.”

marketing consultant Richard Staub, 
in response to star-chitects' websites with too much opaque language, aka "archispeak"

My answer: They're probably talking to architecture students.

Other articles of note:

-- Forbes' coverage of the rise of women entrepreneurs
-- Huffington Post on the perpetuating salary gender gap
-- Hoping to be more productive?  Me too!  Some tips from the NYTimes Small Business Summit
-- Using boredom to our advantage in the 99% blog post on its connections with creativity

13 June 2012

This is coffee!

Came across this great little period film on a favorite brew.   Enjoy it!

thanks to Swiss Miss for the find

26 May 2012

The poetry of pavement

Some days it might be worth walking around looking at our feet.  To spot the variations and poetry in the pavement that is our walking surface, Johan Rijpma gives us his short animation "Tegels" (or "Tiles).

via Polis

15 May 2012

Not by map, but by sight

I came across this intriguing essay in The Atlantic / Cities :

How Do You Navigate a City with No Street Names?

The place in question is Amman, Jordan, a labyrinth of nameless streets and alleyways.  I love the anecdote the author uses to illustrate the problem of navigation:

"It's totally normal to be lost and confused," says photographer Regina Mamou, who spent a year studying how the people of Amman get around. Once, she remembers getting directions to a party via a map the hostess had Photoshopped herself. "I had recreated it on this Post-it, and i still couldn't get to her house," she says.Finally, her friend climbed to the roof of her building and called for her. "There's a sense that this was totally normal," Mamou says. "The fact that we have to get on top of a roof and shout down." 

Here, it's all about the landmarks.  These are the primary nodes of navigation based on visual and experiential memory, not the rational memory of street names and gridlines.

Reading this reminded me of being in Port-au-Prince.  From the very moment M and I hopped in the taxi from the airport to the Haiti Communitere compound, we were told again and again that the best way to orient people to the place was not to tell them we lived on Rue Pelican in Clercine, but that we were staying across from the Jedco.  (As far as I could tell, Jedco deals with industrial-scaled cleaning and management of sorts.)

And you know what?  It worked every time.  Moto drivers (basically taxis for 1-2+ people) never ceased to know where we wanted to go if we were going back -- it was more the going out that was tricky.  Gotta learn the landmarks.  There's something really meaningful and simple about that.

08 May 2012

[the big day] Blooms

Although I like flowers, I've considered cut flowers - especially in vases - to be pretty money sinks that die too quickly (unless they come from Trader Joe's - somehow, those bouquets last for ages!  almost 2 weeks with only one water change!).

But perhaps wedding planning has changed my mind.  Or the wedding industry is leading me to change my mind.

In any rate, I have reinforced my liking for dahlias and developed a penchant for poppies.  We'll see what develops.

- - -
Photo by floral stylist Amy Merrick

06 May 2012

A little taste of Victorian culture, McCormick-style

For the ladies and (select) gentlemen of McCormick:

McCormick Hall Garden Party
Sunday May 13, 2012
two o'clock to four o'clock in the afternoon
The (McC) Courtyard

- - -
Typefaces used: Savoye LET, Rosewood, Type Embellishments
Image: A well-heeled Victorian dame with a fascinator to be proud of (here, attached to her hat) 

02 May 2012

Staring London in the eye

A bus advert that had amused me all those years ago.
A no-nonsense anti-guide to London (one of our honeymoon stops):
"... You want stiff-lipped men in bowler hats and cheeky cockneys with their thumbs in their waistcoats and fish on their heads. 
I’m sorry, but they’re not here anymore. No city’s exported image lags so far behind its homegrown veracity than London’s, so let’s start with what you’re not going to find. We’re all out of cheeky cockneys, pearly kings and their queens, and costermongers. You’re not going to find ’60s psychedelia and the Beatles in Carnaby Street. There aren’t any punks under 50 on the King’s Road; there are no more tweedy, mustachioed, closeted gay writers in Bloomsbury, no Harry Potter at King’s Cross. There aren’t men in white tie, smoking cigars outside Pall Mall clubs and there isn’t any fog, but you can find Sherlock Holmes’s house on Baker Street." 
// A.A. Gill, in his NYTimes' article "A Profile of London"
 What ... no fog?!  No fish on cockneys' heads?!

Just kidding.  The fog part (amongst other things) I can attest to firsthand.  I was studying abroad in Paris in the spring of 2005.  For our semester break, I ventured to London to visit my friend Jackie.  Paris had been dulled by constant rain and clouds, but just as my plane crossed the Channel, the skies broke open and I was greeted by all sun and cheer in the UK.  Talk about breaking stereotypes.

At least we'll be able to find Sherlock.  Phew.

- - -
As a little epilogue, another photo from the past, evidence that London - although perhaps not so foggy - is still indeed windy:

From the top of St. Paul's - a long but worthy hike for the view.

30 April 2012

On the tall man's return

Me : You're back!
The tall man fiance : Is it sweaty?
Me : < laughter >
Tall man : Oh ... you meant ...
Me : Yes, you ARE back.

Both of us, immediately afterward : We should tell L and J !

Thanks to our favorite antagonistic Asian/white couple for the inspiration.  This is a tribute to you.  We might need to work on our insults, but after all, we're only just engaged.  There's still time.

- - -
Text font : Savoye LET, with Nueva Condensed for emphasis

29 April 2012

[yele] Presidential presence in Yele

"... We commend you for your efforts and we will use this pilot in Yele and see how we will learn from the Yele, Gbonkolenken example for the development in the country."
President Koroma in his speech to the people of Yele on March 9th, 2012 

This is a bit of older news, but although most of eLuma's team members remain State-side, much has been going on in Yele thanks to the able coordination of our on-the-ground manager Laila, with the help of our partner the Lion Heart Foundation.

Back in March, the president of Sierra Leone, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, paid an important visit to Yele to check out eLuma and the Lion Heart Foundation's development projects.  Check out the full story featured in Cocorioko, Sierra Leone's most widely-read online newspaper.

25 April 2012

[the big day] Waterproof mascara and tissues

The (wedding related, semi curious but not most essential) question of the morning:

Will I cry at my wedding?

or even,

Will the tall man cry at our wedding?

Joanna Goddard in her blog, A Cup of Jo, posed that to me as I breezed through my largely-neglected Google Reader subscriptions.  Hm.  My first reaction was, "Of course I will cry!"  I have been the weepy one of our relationship in a way that my normally-composed self has now come to terms with, so it seems a given.  I occasionally will tear up (ever so slightly) during sad or particularly joyful parts of movies, so why wouldn't I cry on one of the happiest of life occasions?

Or so I think now.  We shall see on the day itself.

Then what about Marcus?  It's hard to say.  He's not a stone man by any means, but tears are not his forte.  But who knows?  He will probably read this entry and answer for himself.

Will it matter, in the end?  The blog entry features pictures of weepy brides and grooms.  Somehow there is a happy beauty in these images, but tears aren't the only vehicle for great emotion.  Maybe it's a better to  think about capturing the biggest smile e-v-e-r, and maybe a jump-heel-click of glee?

Regardless, I will certainly be prepared with waterproof mascara and artfully-hidden tissues.  Just in case.

18 April 2012

[the big day] The bling and the dress

Sorry for the recent silence, but recent health issues coupled with that thing called "thesis" and that other thing called "wedding planning" have put updates on the life back burner.

But recently, I've come across 2 articles that have made me further question the traditions of the wedding industry.  Before starting to plan my own wedding, I had helped out with the pre-nuptials of family and friends and had my fair share of drama, adrenaline, and the like.  Planning your own wedding, though, really pulls the curtain away to expose what's really going on in that machine called the wedding industry, or what we couples call "the biggest day of our lives."

Don't get me wrong: I really love my fiance and am very much looking forward to tying the knot in November.  However, in this whole process I've been questioning the who/what/when/where/why/how, like ...
Why must I wear white?  Why do brides wear veils?  How is it that a single plate at a dinner banquet is more expensive than a fancy French restaurant dinner, yet the food isn't as good?

Here are two featured links that discuss some of the most critical 'wow' wedding items :

// The economic story behind the bling (outside of DeBeers) //
The Atlantic / thanks to Anne!

// Why that white frock costs so much when you wear it once //
Slate / thanks to Stef!

17 February 2012

A home contained

A shipping container home in California translates into a different philosophy of living.

Thanks to Paul of e-Luma for the reference!

07 February 2012

03 jan 2012

Because it's now public in so many ways ...

... a glimpse of the first glimpse, captured by our very own paparazzi man, John Liu.  This was (and is) my Africa ring, to pose no temptation to thieves or diamond diggers but as a token of a promise made.

One step for (one) man (and woman), one giant leap towards ... the future!  And what stands in between?  Thesis, job search, and the commencement of wedding planning - egads!

31 January 2012

Transforming a life with garbage

Screening @ MIT on Monday 2/6, 6:30-8:30 (32-123)

(right before the UCO Reg Day service at 7:30pm, MIT Chapel)

19 January 2012

[yele] Emergence of e-Luma

When we arrived, the site for the development center was just a dirt field, used by the community for occasional football (here, = soccer) matches.  It is located not far from the main intersection of Yele - the Junction - and is sandwiched between the primary and secondary schools.  The construction was delayed because the village decided to hold a festival here, but once we arrived the local contractor was already there to mark out the site boundaries for the first part of the project.

In the time since the first photo, the concrete foundation and slab were laid and poured with the help of 73 men from the local area.  It was quite the sight!  Although I myself am not doing much of the physical work this time around (sort of a strange feeling), I'm glad to know that we're at least providing jobs for people who need them.

The shipping containers were supposed to be moved on site last Saturday, but this was delayed because the equipment to do it and the medical supplies it was supposed to deliver was stuck in customs.  Finally, though, we have 2 containers on site!  Community members have been coming by to see what has been going on, and we're getting more questions about e-Luma and the opportunities it will bring.

Yesterday Anna and I spent 3 hours in the Junction, talking with local shop owners about e-Luma and handing out application forms.  Despite our lacking Temne skills, we managed to get our point across with pictures and images (thanks to technology like Photoshop and Illustrator to make brochures and renderings).  I'll upload some drawings of the design in the next post.

As an update on the team, Paul and Anna got engaged last Friday on Monkey Island, Paul and Greta (volunteer nurse from the Philippines) left on Sunday, and now three more people with the Foundation - Donald, Stephen, and Maria - will join us on Friday.  The house will be full again in our last week in Yele, and a lot will be happening!

16 January 2012

[yele] Getting old in Yele

Turning 28 makes me feel old, but at least celebrating this milestone in Yele made me feel at home.  Maria made me a cake and set out some balloons for another delicious meal in the village.

12 January 2012

[yele] Project overview and more

We are in Yele!  To keep updated, check out my blog on the Public Service Center's website or the e-Luma blog.  Here we have internet about twice a week, since our connection is dependent on the operation of the palm oil mill.

06 January 2012

[yele] En route to Africa's 'diamond in the rough'

"What, you're going to Sierra Leone?"
"What is Sierra Leone?"
"Isn't that in South America?  Wait, it isn't ... above Brazil or something?"
"Thank you for the information, miss, but what country is Sierra Leone in?  I will need the country name, not the city."

Above are some of the sample questions and reactions I've received recently.  For starters, Sierra Leone is a small country in West Africa:

(not the best map, but something)

Most people know only of its diamonds (where the term "blood diamond" comes from), but there's more to it than that.  I'm traveling there for 3 weeks with the e-Luma team - or some of these people:

to build a community development center bringing together merchants in a new marketplace, but also to distribute electricity and provide entrepreneurship training.  We're starting the first phase of the project, or the "proof of concept" to house 8-10 merchants in recycled shipping containers.

Gotta go catch my flight, but more soon!