Archive for the ‘personal’ Category
10 December, 2012 – 11:59 pm | Filed under commentary, daily life, personal | 1 Comment »
Recently I started volunteering with El Sistema Somerville, based on the famed program pioneered by Dr. José Antonio Abreu in Venezuela in the 1970s, but geared in this case towards children from working-class (and immigrant, in many cases) backgrounds residing in East Somerville, to give them a positive outlet through music and an opportunity for self-empowerment and esteem-building. As a violinist, I’ve been tapped to give private lessons to several of the kids, which has been truly fantastic–it brings back a lot of memories of my JET Programme days, when I also taught kids around this age and had such a blast doing so. What’s interesting this time, though, is that the kids instantly noticed that I’m “different,” because I’m brown-skinned like they are.
It ended up being an interesting way of breaking the ice with the one rather energetic kid who I worked with this past Thursday:
Me: (saying something about my brother)
Kid: “What’s your brother’s name?”
Kid: “What’s your name?”
Kid: (strange look)
Me: “It’s Indian. Our family is from India.”
Kid: “Ah, okay! I knew you were Indian because you’re brown-skinned.”
Me: (momentarily shocked, then laughing) “Well, lots of people have brown skin, you know!”
Kid: “I mean, I mean, I knew that because you have brown skin, you come from another country.”
Kid: “Are you a teenager? You look like you are because you have pimples and stuff.”
Me: (half-joking, half-seriously claps my hand over part of my face where I do have a bit of an acne outbreak) “No, I’m not a teenager.”
Kid: “What are you doing?”
Me: “I don’t want you to see my pimples.”
Kid: (suddenly very interested) “What? Where don’t you want me to see?”
Me: “I’m not telling you!”
Kid: “But if you’re not a teenager, how come you have pimples like that?” (gestures higher up at my face)
Me: (realizing) “What–you mean these?”
Kid: “Yeah! What are those brown spots?”
Me: “These are freckles.” (pointing at the brown spots on my cheekbones)
Kid: “Ohhh. But I thought freckles were pink?”
Me: “Nope, sometimes they’re brown.”
Kid: “Oh. But wait, that’s still your cheek?”
Me: “Yeah, this whole area–” (gestures) “–is your cheek.”
Kid: (explaining his behavior, as whenever he makes a mistake, he breathes heavily and gesticulates in frustration) “I just get angry sometimes. I’m an angry person, but I know I shouldn’t get angry.”
Circling back around…
Me: “How old are you?”
Kid: “Nine. How old are you?”
Me: (giving in) “Thirty-one.”
Kid: “Oh.” (pauses, thinks) “My dad is thirty-two. My mom is thirty-one.”
Me: “Oh, okay.” (as an aside) “Wow, I’m old enough to be your mom…”
Kid: “Do you have kids?”
Kid: “A husband?”
Kid: (surprised) “Don’t you want one?”
Me: (cringing, as this means I’m now being hounded about this from all age groups) “Sure, yeah. I just don’t have one yet.”
Kid: “Well, you have your family, like your parents and stuff, right?”
Me: “That’s right.”
Kid: “And you’re happy to have your parents, right?”
Me: “Yeah, definitely.”
Kid: “Well, I think your parents are really happy to have you. And they probably want you to be happy like them. Try it! You should try it sometime!”
Me: (unable to stop grinning) “Okay. Maybe I will.”
* * * * *
On Saturday I finally moved officially into an apartment of my own–my first time living alone since 2007. My previous roommate situation just went downhill rather rapidly (I could say a lot more, dripping in bitterness and resentment, but I’ll just stop right there) and I broke my lease and got out to save my own sanity and seek my own happiness again. I moved in with a coworker/friend, but due to an unexpected visit from her parents, she needed her spare room back much sooner than we both anticipated, so I moved on, and was fortunate enough to pounce on this apartment.
Anyway, I had dinner plans with some relatives northwest of here, and was so exhausted that I ended up crashing at their place for the night. The next day, on my drive back towards the city, I spotted signs for Walden Pond and decided to go check it out.
The weather was cool and there were more people out than I expected, but it was still possible at times to feel like I was all alone in the woods as I circled the pond. The sight of Henry David Thoreau’s cabin’s remains really evoked a sense of wistfulness within me. Is it possible to live such a life of isolation like that these days? Do I have it in me to do something like that? Or am I too dependent on material concerns in life to consider letting go of them for several years, and living almost solely with what I could make and build?
What was particularly surprising to me was that there’s a major route that cuts right by the pond (between it and the parking lot, in fact), and several planes and helicopters went overhead and disturbed the silence as well. I was also surprised to see several commuter rail trains go by on the far side of the lake, but then read that that railroad track had been there even during Thoreau’s own visit. He wasn’t completely cut off from all traces of civilization.
I managed to distract myself from that self-deprecating “man, I’m not capable of this” train of thought, and focused on the beautiful hike through the woods, with lovely views of the pond. It was easy to imagine what it must have been like during Thoreau’s day; despite the civilization, it was still heavily wooded. It’s an interesting contrast to the intense, semi-claustrophobic bustle of Boston and its immediate suburbs, and a very therapeutic one. I’d started going for acupuncture the preceding week (thanks to a LivingSocial deal) and found the forced 30 minutes of quiet relaxation incredibly valuable, and was able to tap into that same sense of peace as I hiked roughly 1.5 miles partway around the pond and back again.
* * * * *
The common thread between both of these is that they relate so heavily to this struggle to figure out what I want my future to be. Do I want children? Will I even get married first? Will I regret not having children? How can I live more virtuously and be true to myself and to the planet? What are the big priorities for me going forward?
Sometimes it’s simpler than you make it. There’s a lot that you can control, but there’s also a lot that you can’t. All you can do is take steps to be true to yourself, to be good and true to the people in your life and to the world that hosts you for a spell. (Well, I’m still working on letting go and accepting those simple truths as being enough. But I hope to get there someday.) Everyone has their own path there. Mine is becoming clearer, in the sense that I’m happy to be flexible, to embark on adventures in this period of my life and to not be in a hurry to settle down into the expected and the conventional. With luck, everything else will work itself out.
I’m just glad to be in a situation where these tidbits of conventional wisdom make themselves known through such creative venues as the wisdom of a bright-eyed elementary school child and the history and heritage of the wooded area where a man as good as achieved enlightenment. And I am so grateful.
8 September, 2012 – 12:48 am | Filed under music, personal | No Comments »
There were a few major takeaways from Omara “Bombino” Moctar‘s concert with his friends and band in Somerville tonight. (For those who aren’t familiar with him, he is a brilliant guitarist who hails from the Sahel region of Africa, specifically the country of Niger, and more specifically from the Tuareg nomadic group. He’s been called “the Hendrix of the Sahara” for his stylings. In order to escape the violence that afflicted the region, he and his guitar moved throughout northern Africa, and he spread messages of peace and solidarity through his music.
1. He remembered us from last time! He came over to greet our table!
2. Bombino is a big enough act that his music, journey, and story have impacted many lives. At the same time, he’s so down-to-earth and humble and really takes the time to greet and thank (and hug!) his fans. And really, that’s what has cemented his die-hard fans/”groupies”–those personal connections.
3. Got a signed CD! He’s such a sweet guy, shy and so cute, but still willing to even try to chat, despite the language barrier.
4. Music is…how to find the words to discover the brilliance of its universality? Even though we don’t understand the language in which he was singing, and even though the lyrics most likely deal with the experiences he experienced as part of the embattled Tuareg community of Niger, it doesn’t matter when he performs: the sound and spirit carry though and people just dance and smile and really feel the music thrumming through them and moving them. Whether or not we understand the words, we are impacted.
5. The warmth that lingers after each show (granted, I’ve only been to see two) hasn’t been lost on me. The fact that he and the band linger specifically to reach out to fans, and that so much joy is shared (in the form of many hugs and photos) is such a cool notion. The die-hard fans are also great, and willing to reach out and explain and spread that warmth and joy around. (Tonight we met a couple of “groupies,” including at least one woman who’s traveled extensively in Africa and became acquainted with Bombino there, and a guy of Libyan descent studying in Connecticut who drove up just for the show.)
6. Omara Moctar is only a year or so older than me, but I can’t even imagine the things he’s faced during his life as a refugee. Nor can I begin to imagine how it must have felt once he was finally welcomed back to Niger with all the honors, after many years of having to live a semi-nomadic lifestyle elsewhere, due to his people flat-out not being welcome.
7. The music is so damn catchy, but what really makes me smile is how caught up in the improv he gets. The way he moves and his face glazes over as you can see his mind working and his fingers flying furiously on the neck of the guitar…that’s what it is to be moved by music, and to channel it through you. And though he deals heavily with repetition, there’s just something about how he styles and shapes it with each subsequent “iteration” that feels so unique to him.
8. It hit me tonight that Bombino’s music is a direct translation of traditional African/Saharan sounds, translated to electric and bass guitars and a drum set, with some blues influence thrown in. AND IT COMPLETELY WORKS.
9. 2nd Bombino hug!
10. What fantastic solidarity that he invited friends, fans, and fellow musicians who were proficient guitarists to come jam with him on stage! That’s one of the secondary reasons why I’m a fan of the Toure-Raichel Collective–it’s all about connecting with others, regardless of their background.
11. The Boston World Music Meetup is one of my favorite things about living in this city. Hands-down.
12 August, 2012 – 11:50 pm | Filed under art+illustration, personal | No Comments »
Trying to make myself get back into drawing, and to force myself out of this visual/stylistic rut I’ve been in for several years now…
#1: sketches from the last few months at work (and one BostonCHI event). Mostly sketches of my hand (including my Celtic puzzle knot ring motif), coworkers and paraphernalia in conference rooms (phone, stapled papers, Kleenex box, hand sanitizer bottle)…and a couple of other random doodles, including my longtime character, Andorus, in the upper right, just because it’s been ages since “I’ve seen her,” so to speak.
#2: sketches from this past Thursday’s Boston SketchUp Meetup. We met in Davis Square for a couple of hours of good, friendly sketching. The first page is mainly sketches of (bits and pieces of) others at my table, as well as passersby.
#3: Tula, from Pirates of Dark Water, that cartoon I’m really into. :) She’s my go-to sketch, if you will; it’s really easy for me to just dash her off, particularly in this “butterfly” outfit of hers.
#4: my first attempt with charcoals in 8 years. (That first attempt was my first and only formal art class, a figure drawing class I took in Atlanta during my final year of undergrad.) I started by drawing a handful of horizontal lines and then smudging them like crazy, until I somehow ended up with something resembling a waterfall.
23 November, 2011 – 6:38 pm | Filed under daily life, personal, web | No Comments »
Man, what a summer. Lots to recap, but that’s not what I’m here to do today. :)
I’ve been having a bit of an internal struggle about the best blogging platform to use to quickly share stuff with people, particularly now that Google Reader’s been integrated with Google+. My attention span’s shot, as is evidenced by the lack of frequent posts here (we’ll see if I can fix that, though). But also having acquired my first smartphone this summer, I like the idea of posting photos on the go. I’ve been using Twitter for that (oh yeah, note to self, fix the feed to the right) but wonder if there’s a more central location that’s frequently trafficked. And I’m trying to curtail my Facebook usage/dependency. Maybe I can somehow combine it all here…we’ll see.
Anyway, cool links from the last few days:
How to switch your parents’ web browser without them knowing (via LifeHacker)
Need I say more? Seriously.
Finding your flow: spend less and do more (via Get Rich Slowly)
This really spoke to me, especially in light of the “shortened attention span” thing above. In this age of being overwhelmed with so much information, it’s easy to take stuff at face value and then move on to the next shiny gem. Learning how to go deep (and I’ll confess that the music examples definitely wooed me) and improve your understanding and appreciation is something everyone could benefit from. I guess this spoke to me on multiple levels: I like the idea of understanding more about things you already love, but also about having the awareness to ask questions and to seek out knowledge about things you don’t even realize you don’t know much about.
List of 45 Oscar-nominated animated short films (via Cartoon Brew)
I try to link to this annually–there are almost always some fantastic pieces of animation here. People focus on what’s more readily accessible and these are often overshadowed–the art of short-form storytelling is so, so underrated. This is only the first short-list, by the way–they’ll pare this down further for the final round of nominees that’s then mentioned on Oscar night.
And now for a more personal turn–things I’m thankful for this year. (Which may or may not also serve as a recap of this summer.) I do have some reservations about the history behind Thanksgiving, due to learning more about how inexcusably horribly the Native American/First Nations tribes and groups have been treated over the last 500+ years, and how schools teach flat-out revisionist history around the day and all that…but the sentiment of humility and gratitude behind the holiday is a nice one. So let’s go with that for now. :)
I’m thankful for the well-being of my family and friends, and for my health and general fortune in life. I’m thankful to have a roof over my head, money in the bank, food in the fridge, and to have the opportunity/luxury of splurging if I wish.
I’m thankful that my life is going well, and that even when it doesn’t, I can almost always learn something from those experiences to help me grow and expand my sense of perspective.
I’m thankful to be an intelligent woman in a society with no inhibitions on when and how I use my mind and express myself.
I’m thankful to have finally landed what has ended up being a pretty cool job just outside of Boston (where I have resided since late September), after a grueling 5+ month search in an unforgiving economic climate. (I’m also thankful for my pretty sweet apartment, and my very cool roommate.)
I’m thankful to have had an unexpected but really nice “romantic interlude” at the very end of my stay in Pittsburgh (and for a couple of months beyond), and though it ultimately had to end because of the long distance between Pittsburgh and Boston, I’m thankful to now have a new good friend in my life.
I’m thankful that I was able to
1. complete a master’s degree
2. and emerge relatively unscathed
3. and more enlightened about myself and the world on so many levels.
I’m thankful to be in a city where I have a few good friends, and to be fairly close to another big city where I have many more good friends (and cousins). (New York! Amtrak! Tofurky will be had this weekend!)
Though I have major reservations about many aspects of US foreign policy and general attitudes among some in power towards those different from themselves, I’m thankful to be in a stable and safe country, and to never have known war or poverty or deep hardship firsthand. And I’m thankful for our troops–I don’t support any of our wartime activities but I do support the people who have been asked to carry out tasks that most of us couldn’t dream of facing, in the name of protecting us.
I’m thankful for my friends, period. I just don’t have the words to convey it, but you know I love you all.
I’m thankful for my family–though we have our share of scuffles, we’re always there for each other. And I’m thankful to have finally grown closer to a number of my cousins in recent years (and to be a chithi/”younger aunt” to the two newest additions of my family).
There’s a lot of other stuff I could list, but I feel like it all ultimately falls into one of the above in one way or another. I try to avoid being thankful for petty things, but at the same time, sometimes the silly things in life can be the most helpful…so I may as well mention that I am also thankful for Cookie Monster, jigidi.com (jigsaw puzzles galore), and mindless comedy, which helped me get through some rough days in grad school. :) And samosas, and rasam. Man, there is almost nothing more comforting to me than good Indian food.
Peace be with yinz and y’all. :)
4 August, 2011 – 2:43 pm | Filed under commentary, daily life, geology, personal | No Comments »
At the beginning of the week, I was preparing to drive to Washington, DC for a final-round job interview. I didn’t have any breakfast food with me (I’d just shifted to a friend’s place on Sunday night, after vacating the Ladies’ Den (the house I shared with three of my grad school classmates)), so I went to the Bruegger’s Bagels in Squirrel Hill to grab a quick bagel and coffee and use their wifi to jot down logistical notes for the trip.
While I was there, I became aware of a conversation between two older women a couple of tables over. It permeated my consciousness when one of them started repeating the phrase, “It makes me sick,” each time slightly louder and more vehement. I figured it would be some kind of rant on the current mess that is US politics, and I tuned in idly to see where it might go, half-expecting a rant against liberals or Democrats or something.
However, the next thing I perceived was, “I am so glad I grew up when I did, when we really experienced the glory that was America. Can a real American stand up anymore?” followed quickly by, “I know. I get on the bus and put my sunglasses on and just look straight ahead. I can’t look around anymore. It makes me sick.”
It was then that I realized with a jolt that they weren’t talking about politics at all. My stomach quickly sank, and I couldn’t help but continue to listen.
The conversation rapidly degenerated into more slurs against immigrants and foreigners, about how they were diluting this country’s greatness and they couldn’t believe what a mess it’s become, and how unpardonable it was that there are people all over the place who don’t speak English, and how real Americans have had to work hard to get everything but “these people” are just handed everything on a silver platter.
As the conversation turned towards the influx of non-American doctors and medical students, I happened to glance over right as the “makes me sick” woman hissed, “You’re telling me that you don’t speak my language and you’re going to treat me? You aren’t touching me. You aren’t touching me.”
At this point, my mind was racing to figure out if I could do or say anything to respond. Finally, all I could manage was to turn and fix them with a very pointed and affronted stare. They noticed, glancing just briefly at me, and dropped their voices as they started to clear up their wrappers and trash, but still keeping on with the anti-foreigner trash talking.
Once they left, I glanced around the seating area, wondering if anybody had reacted to this conversation, but nobody else seemed to have been paying attention. I shook my head and whispered an incredulous, “Holy shit,” to myself, and turned back to my laptop to try to finish what I was doing.
(I should mention, by the way, that we were roughly a mile from Carnegie Mellon University and 1.5 miles from the University of Pittsburgh, both world-class universities with large international student/faculty populations, as well as the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, which is both a medical school and a series of regional healthcare facilities. We also were in Squirrel Hill, the Jewish neighborhood of Pittsburgh, where you often see many suit/long-skirt-clad Hasidic Jews walking down the street, many of whom probably have immigrant ancestors. Not to mention, the main drag of Squirrel Hill boasts an incredible display of ethnic, cultural, socioeconomic, religious, and political diversity. It’s one of the most real neighborhoods I’ve ever lived in, which was part of why I love it.)
I went on with my day and finally left town for DC, but I couldn’t shake the deep feeling of discomfort that that encounter had created. You hear about these things on TV and in the media, and of course you see passing examples like stupid bumper stickers (such as “don’t blame me, I voted for the American” next to a big X through the Obama logo), but it had been such a long time since I’d seen people actually voicing these views in person. I kept replaying it in mind, and only then did a few snappy comebacks finally come to mind…
- “You grew up in the 60s and 70s, right? In the middle of the Civil Rights era?”
- “Excuse me, but have you ever tried having a real conversation with any of the international people you meet? If you did, you’d find that we have way more similarities than differences, if you just gave us a chance.”
- “You know that this is a nation of immigrants, right? Your ancestors probably came over from Europe, too…”
- “Just because you overhear people speaking another language, that doesn’t mean they don’t speak English. For them to have made it this far means that they’re definitely intelligent people.”
- “Have you ever stopped to think about this from their perspective? They’re the ones who are thousands of miles away from home, in a totally new place, far away from most of their friends and relatives.”
- “You really need to find another neighborhood to hang out in if diversity bothers you so much!”
(Well…I thought they sounded good in my head, but they totally would have fallen flat if I’d actually said them. But I still wish I’d tried.)
I also attempted, to a very small degree, to rationalize why they’d be thinking all this. This sort of strong negativity is inevitably due to ignorance, a lack of exposure to different people or ways of life, and a fear of the unknown. They grew up in a very different era and a very different America. As an Indian-American chick from a non-Judeo-Christian tradition, I’m obviously biased towards a world that embraces diversity and open-mindedness, and in my travels and experiences, I’ve come to witness our united humanity and realize that people are people, no matter where you go. But I know that those experiences, and even that mindset, are kind of the exception to the rule, and also a little idealistic. Still, though, that totally doesn’t excuse such blatant anti-foreigner prejudice and actually saying such hateful things.
I tried to distract myself, zoning out and paying attention to my surroundings on the drive into central Pennsylvania and northern Maryland.
In June, I’d gone to Santorini (a volcanic caldera/island system off the southern coast of Greece) for a week-long hiking trip with VolcanoDiscovery (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, if you’re looking for a solid mix of geology, history, and culture). It made me very aware of the stratigraphy of the rock faces all around us then, and also ever since I got back. One day we hiked ~10km/6.5 miles and saw layers of ash, pumice, and tephra laid down by eruptions over thousands of years. On another day, we saw lava flows as recent as 50 years ago that are still jagged and not too worn down by erosion, and solid boulders with uniform cracks along their surfaces that came from going from a really hot state to a really cool state very quickly. On yet another day, we witnessed two million years’ worth of geological history on a 300-meter (1000-foot) descent from the towns on top of the caldera cliff down to the sea below, and it was all written incredibly and indelibly into the different layers and types of the rocks. We learned how to read some of the signs the earth has left behind to tell us what it’s been up to over the decades and millennia.
As I drove on, I became aware of areas of exposed rock along the sides of the freeway, inevitably from people blasting through the mountains to build the freeway system decades ago. I started perceiving different layers of rock, different colors and textures and characteristics…and then the tension in my chest and stomach started to dissipate, and I actually smiled a little.
Most days, being a geology and astronomy geek is pretty much an eccentricity that just surprises and puzzles most people. But on this particular day, I realized that it lent me a very different sense of perspective.
All this conflict and hatred and ignorance that we as people witness and create and suffer through…this is nothing but a grain of sand in the Sahara Desert that is deep time, the geological history of the earth. This miasma of negativity, insularity, and fear consumes us and we can’t get away from it…but modern human history is only several thousands of years old, and it rests on top of these reassuringly constant, nearly timeless rocks below us. We were born, and we’ll die, and the natural processes that churn ceaselessly on to create and reshape the rocks below us and the stars above us will endure for immeasurable millions and billions of years, as they already had before our ancestors’ ancestors even existed, and as they still will once the human race no longer exists.
Whether it’s a religion you believe in, or whether the earth itself is your religion, we’re all part of something bigger. The playing field will be leveled for all of us one way or another.
Many people believe in a god or pantheon of gods, and that lends comfort to their hearts and minds. Thanks to this trip to Santorini, I see the rocks along the interstate, and I draw deep reassurance from the fact that life will go on and that this will all still be here, despite the unpleasantness, negativity, and violence that we perpetuate and perceive in our own lives and our constructed world.
At the same time, my designery/problem-solving/empathetic side really, really would love to just sit down and talk sense into people, to break through these walls and blinders of ignorance people build around themselves, and to change their perspectives. But maybe I’ll spend some time hiking or staring at the stratigraphy along the freeway to ground myself (ha, oops, pun not intended) before I give that a try.
13 October, 2010 – 8:47 pm | Filed under design, personal, school | No Comments »
Yay, I’m slightly more marginally famous!*
Print Magazine approached Carnegie Mellon’s School of Design about having us graduate students write articles, reflecting both CMU’s approach to design and our own design interests, for the Imprint Blog–their blog about other interests and interesting areas of design beyond print. A number of the second-years volunteered, and we just started our weekly rotation of articles. (Last week my classmate Jenny kicked our column off by writing about designing for social impact, and next week my classmate and housemate Jeanette is up.) Everyone who’s volunteered is set to write one article this semester–we’ll see how it goes for the spring as well.
My article this week is on intercultural design, its importance, and why I think it’s better to be intercultural than cross-cultural. (Had I had the foresight to include a title, it would’ve been less proclamatory and more punny.) I believe it may have been edited minorly for length (that, or my lack of sleep is making me misremember how I’d written and edited it), but the message is the same. Check it out and let me know what you think!
* When people come to hear of my Pirates of Dark Water fan site, I tell them that I am very, very, very, very minorly internet-famous. :) (Yes, with four “very”s before the “minorly.”)
In other news, I am an “aunt” again–my cousin Yamuna had a baby girl this morning, YAY!–and I determined that printing out the results of my first thesis survey would take nearly 400 sheets of legal-sized paper. Wow.
29 April, 2010 – 2:48 pm | Filed under personal, school | No Comments »
It is a very surreal feeling to have the president of a large division of a company worth $6 billion annually call you twice in a day. And not only that, but to have him call because he wanted to make sure that he had adequately answered your interview questions for a project you’re working on, and that you had enough material to work with.
This gentleman is the CEO of the North American operations of a Japanese engineering and manufacturing company, and he has been incredibly gracious in helping me with my Global Communication project, both through sending long e-mails and chatting over the phone. I’m really honored that he’s freed up so much time to answer my questions via e-mail and the phone, and he’s been completely relaxed and approachable. I really wish more CEOs remembered that their livelihoods ultimately revolve around people. The world would be a much happier place.
Man, maybe I should just ditch this blog–I’ve done such a poor job of staying on top of things. Maybe things will be better this summer, when I have an internship and a more regular schedule! Who knows?
Anyway, life’s crazy but I feel like I’m over one hump and have a day to breathe before jumping headfirst into tackling the next. I just completed my last official class of the semester, but we still have a ton of work to do for a major presentation next week for Studio (that we’re presenting both here at Carnegie Mellon and at the Chicago offices of Motorola, one of our corporate sponsors), and I have three papers due on Monday.
After Chicago, it’s time to prepare for Philadelphia–I’m moving in a few weeks for the summer to do an internship there.
I got 6 hours of sleep last night and 4 the night before–off to get some coffee and some lunch, and chill the afternoon away.
21 February, 2010 – 7:13 pm | Filed under design, personal, school, web | 2 Comments »
Ha, so I never actually posted my work here, but in the last few weeks I redesigned my portfolio and posted some of my better pieces there. Check it out!
I’m finding myself relying more on Google Reader to keep up with everything, so I’ve added a list of my shared items to the right-hand pane. Amusingly, they do tie in with the “design, music, and science” tagline…there could be more music in there, though. (There can always be more music.)
So we had 3 days off the week before last, due to record snowfall in western Pennsylvania. There’s still snow everywhere, with more on the way, but they’ve at least finally been able to clear the primary and secondary roadways; some of the sidewalks (especially on my walk to school, conveniently enough) are still covered in slush, but that’s where my $30 Target boots have saved the day.
Anyway, last week was pretty intense, in part because of that and because of the huge career/networking/internship fair we had the preceding week (I had five interviews on Friday the 12th, as well as one earlier in the week). This past week, I had a presentation, two papers, lots of readings, and just General Fun Stuff to deal with. But it’s done now, and I can take a deep breath before jumping into the next huge pile of work (and rehearsals, as we have a concert Friday!) that awaits me.
Some fun stuff I’ve come across (a.k.a. going through my list of starred posts in Google Reader)…
Clients from Hell – for designers to commiserate (and for most non-designers to cringe in sympathy).
Volcano-on-volcano action – two neighboring volcanoes are erupting simultaneously on the Kamchatka peninsula in Russia. (It looks like three in the image, but the middle “plume” is simply a cloud.)
Birds on the Wires (YouTube video) – really lovely and inspirational scenery-inspired musical project. I saw a TV commercial recently that played with this idea, but I’m not sure which came first.
25 user experience videos that are worth your time – this is almost 2 months old now, but still a cool resource. I’ll admit that I took notice of it due to the very first talk by Jesse Games Garrett, and how he describes Beethoven as a user experience designer. Last semester, I gave a very similar presentation for my Presentation and Pitch Design course, describing John Williams as an information designer, well before I saw this talk. I guess I’m on the right track, then!
Sleeping kitties! My friend Anne posts adorable animal photo posts all the time. This made me feel so warm and cozy.
Artists take on He-Man and the Masters of the Universe – some great illustrations in here (with a couple of She-Ra throwbacks, too). Also a few months old.
Have a good afternoon!
13 January, 2010 – 12:54 am | Filed under daily life, design, music, personal, school | 3 Comments »
Back again, back again…
Winter break was restful and nice. Three weeks in the metro Atlanta suburbs was perhaps a bit long, but it was great seeing my friends and family again. I didn’t get nearly as much done as I wanted to or should have–I did start on redesigning my professional portfolio, as well as ecomancer.net in general, so hopefully I can launch both of those before the end of the semester (the portfolio will have to be up by February, in anticipation of Confluence and the Creative Arts Opportunity Conference).
Speaking of which, now that I’ve attended all the classes I registered for initially, I’ve finally made my decisions about what to sign up for. Initial thoughts:
CPID seminar: should be very interesting and useful. It’s with the professor I spent a few hours with when I did my campus visit, the former head of the English department–my program is cross-listed between the Schools of Design and English–and beyond simply learning how to write about design, we’re learning how to design our written communication, to gear it for specific contexts and specific users. I definitely enjoy writing, and this should be really good for me.
Intermediate Japanese: will kick my ass. Good god. The class meets 4 times a week, they already assigned homework due Tuesday, there are quizzes and essays and research projects, we have to purchase a 300-page bundle of worksheets on sale at the bookstore…if I had the time to devote to it, it would be really, really good for me, especially since the professor seems really strict (far more so than anybody at Georgia Tech ever was) and demands a lot from the students. It’s geared more towards Japanese majors/minors, people who do have the ability to focus like that (which grad students cannot). Plus, it’s hard to be in a class with people who’ve learned Japanese for a while (at least 3 semesters, if not longer) and still say “annie-may” and “man-guh” (anime and manga, or Japanese animation and comics/graphic novels). I really had to fight not to wince out loud–my friends know I really campaigned hard (but nicely!) to get them all to say it properly, and this is a huge pet peeve of mine.
Design Studio: wow. This is our Major Effort of the year, which we all knew even in August, but the first day definitely reaffirmed that. This class has historically been sponsored by Microsoft to form semester-long teams that take part in their Design Challenge–we’re one of a small handful of universities they’ve selected for this–and the winning team (decided by a MS rep who comes to see the final presentations) presents their work at Microsoft’s Design Expo in the summer. This year, though, we have both Microsoft and Motorola sponsoring us, and the Mattress Factory, a local contemporary art museum, is keen on getting some students to work on something for them. The professor who taught the class in years past is actually working for Microsoft and is our corporate liaison; this year our instructors three CMU design alums who are all successful designers.
The theme for the Microsoft Design Challenge this year is Context: Service Meets Social. I’m trying to keep that in the back of my mind at all times.
Research Methods: should be interesting. I had some very brief experience with some of them during my last job, and it should be cool to learn more. This class is tied in with our studio–we’ll be learning methods and then applying them immediately to what we’re doing in studio. The professor is one of the two I TA’d for last semester, so I feel like I know him fairly well and we do get along, which is cool.
Communicating in the Global Marketplace: I’m impressed with the class and the professor. Even from how she got to know the various students in the course and handled pronouncing their names (which can be quite touchy at times, but which she did with admirable grace), I could tell that she really knows her stuff, and the fact that several students cited enjoying working with her in previous classes as a reason for enrolling definitely helped. Our final project actually involves finding a group or company of some kind and doing some cross-cultural communication consulting work for them (which I’ve been very interested in doing from a design standpoint)–should be amazing, but I’m just concerned about the timing, because studio is going to be mad in March and April.
Rhetoric and Information Design: I’m glad I’m auditing this, for two reasons: it’ll lessen my crazy workload, while still letting me attend this class and reap what I think are going to be some great benefits. (Don’t get me wrong; I’ll still do all the readings and do the projects, but I do have the option of possibly doing the projects later if I get busy, and I will be taking advantage of that flexibility.)
I had the realization last semester that in order to be a good designer, one must be a strong and effective communicator–not just in selling your work (a lesson I totally learned during my last job, and tried to pass on to some of my students in the class I TA’d last term, who were baffled that we were so strict with them and didn’t see what relevance writing and communication has to design), but in making your work say something and make an effective statement or argument. As information designers, this is especially crucial to us, since we aren’t just making “pretty things”–we’re organizing and presenting information (which, as we established briefly today, is by definition more subjective than raw data, as we’re taking it and filtering it somewhat in order to understand it as we compose/construct our work).
Anyway, long story short: I’ve dropped Japanese, and am keeping the other five. (CPID Seminar, Studio, and Research Methods are all required anyway.) I was gutted about losing Japanese, but there’s a conversation session at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh on the 2nd and 3rd Tuesday of each month, and I got permission from Miso, the very kind and understanding Ph.D who’s teaching R&ID, to duck out 10-15 minutes early to get there on time. I went tonight, and it was actually a lot of fun, quite informative, with a friendly and eager group of adult students–essentially a reversed eikaiwa. Plus, I have the textbooks and can definitely study on my own, whenever I have the time.
There’s also my TA-ship: this semester I’ll be assisting with facilities and tech support. My first major project is setting up for the three-hour thesis paper presentation the second-years are giving on the 22nd of January. The guy who had this post last year assures me that it’s no sweat, which is a relief. (Well, that is, unless something goes wrong, haha.) Anyway, our first meeting to discuss this and my other duties is later this week.
And my campus orchestra ensembles start up this weekend. I already know I won’t have the time to stick it out with the All University Orchestra for the whole semester, but I’m the only 1st violinist who’s played (most of) Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade before, so maybe I can help out for a short while. String Theory, though, I will be sticking with, and we have our next concert in about six weeks, with another one combined with the AUO in April.
Oh, and there’s the letterpress project I worked on last semester but never finished. (It’s okay–I was just graded on what I’d done, and the instructor had no problem with my needing extra time to complete it.) I really hope I can find the time to wrap that up in the next few weeks.
Something else nice: I have very convenient breaks in my schedule that allow me to go home midday and/or hit the campus gym. I’ll definitely need the stress relief (and the exercise–it’s quite cold and snowy here, which prevents me from walking to campus (or even sprinting up the block to catch the bus, as the sidewalks may not be salted) most days, and I could stand to lose a few pounds).
For now, though, I really should sleep, as the downside of my schedule is that our Seminar course meets at 8:30 AM on Monday and Wednesday. Ugh.
Please wish me luck this semester–even tomorrow, as that’s when we’ll receive our group assignments in studio, and when we’ll learn who among our classmates we’ll be working very closely with for the next four months. I feel a lot better about this than I did about last term, now that I know how the system works here. But we’ll see how it goes. I hope I’m up for the challenge.
20 December, 2009 – 10:16 pm | Filed under daily life, personal | 2 Comments »
I really didn’t do a great job of documenting this semester. I wasn’t even really sure how to gear this blog, which didn’t help and which resulted in all those long and rambling entries. Next semester will be better, though.
It’s finally winter break. I was fortunate, in that I wasn’t ever truly stressed out–just busy, especially during this last month, and especially during the last week of classes and the week after. (And here I thought I’d have that whole week off. Ha!)
I’ll catch up on posting work–right now I’m working on redesigning my portfolio, which will include my better pieces from this term. Tomorrow I’m driving (or hoping to drive, provided the weather cooperates) to Cincinnati to visit my cousin and her newborn son for a couple of days. Happy holidays, everyone!