Friday, July 31, 2009

Then it came to me...

So I've heard this track at a few clubs now, and this past weekend I asked the DJ what the name and artist were. The guy told me it was "Get Out Of Here" by Gramophone. Wrong.

Inspired by a sudden memory surge, I remembered a few more of the lyrics:

Get out of here
Get me some money too

So I plugged it into Google and found out that the original artist is Peggy Lee, and the sampled track was recorded in 1942. Turns out the artist is Gramophonedzie (the DJ was close).

I immediately IM'ed a friend the lyrics, and within minutes we had the song and were rocking out. Check it out (listen at least until 2:18):

Gramophonedzie – Why Don't You

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Breadth vs. Depth: What is the internet DOING to us?

During a recent conversation about online news with my roommate, he commented that he "didn't like what the internet had done to him." In his eyes, our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter as more and more information becomes readily available for our consumption. I agree. With so much going on, you can't necessarily afford to read everything thoroughly to cultivate informed opinions and reasoning. It becomes a slippery slope to developing habits of skimming headlines, or using things like the "Quick Read" feature offered by the Huffington Post.

My roommate's comment struck me because it made it sound as if he had been victimized, as if the internet had some ubiquitous influence over his habits that he couldn't escape. And suddenly, I was forced to consider my own information-gathering habits. I have a long list of blogs and news feeds plugged into my Google Reader account, and am constantly adding new interesting or relevant sites. I only check out a few on a daily basis, but I figure I'd rather have these resources available for future reference than to lose them forever.

Despite my attempts to check all of these sites regularly, I have yet to find a healthy balance of breadth and depth. With so many topics (illustration, advertisting, news, gadgetry, photography, humor, friend's blogs), it becomes difficult to decide what to read and when. A quick solution might be to just go through all of it really quickly. Sure, you'll get an idea of what's happening, but you won't really learn anything; ranted, I assume this is how most people digest newspapers and magazines, both in print and online. If your intention is too just get an overview of what's happening, then skimming gets the job done. But then aren't we just growing accustomed to shallow reporting? And if you've got the ability to have hundreds of feeds in your feed-reader, isn't that just getting you to learn less about more?

I see two possible solutions:

[1] Make a short list of sites that you intend to thoroughly read and investigate. Spend time researching lots of different ones and choose based on what seems to be source, rather than a regurgitator/commentator. Come to terms with the fact that you can only spot check others.

[2] Make a schedule. Sounds super OCD, but it could work beautifully. Imagine structuring your week by category so that you don't need to worry about covering everything in a single sitting. Make a list for each day of the week and stick to it. This requires a commitment to regular reading, but would keep you ├╝ber-informed. In conjunction with [1], you'd learn a hell of a lot.

There's an obvious caveat to this reasoning: the problem is self-inflicted. I've got a broad range of interests that I want to cover, and want to keep up with current trends and news on lots of fronts. It's just something I personally feel compelled to do. Others might not care about breadth, and are satisfied with depth in a select few topics. That's fine..

But with SO MUCH STUFF out there, with SO MANY OPINIONS discussing different angles on SO MANY ISSUES, decisions have to be made. There are so many hours in a day, and only so much time you should be able to sit in front of your computer. As our breadth of knowledge increases, it becomes a challenging—but not impossible—task to see it all with the kind of depth that will help us learn. It's like that epic quote from Spiderman, am I right?!

Choice MagClouds that I would love to get

MagCloud is a pretty cool service. For a flat-rate of $0.20 a page, you can upload a PDF up to 60 pages 100 pages long [they just upgraded their service!]. The company will print out as many copies as you need on glossy, magazine quality paper with sadle-stitch binding and send it back to you. Other people can subscribe and order as many copies as they want, and MagCloud will ship it wherever it has to go (you can mark-up the price and the author keeps the difference after shipping and printing costs). It's another step in the wave of self-publishing, a perfect solution to get a photo-memoir of your vacation or local publication printed and delivered for cheap.

I spent some time browsing through some of the showcased 'zines and found a few gems. I recommend perusing the site yourself, and maybe even take advantage of the idea but getting some stuff printed.

PROCESS

Fotoblur

mf magazine

Drink the Ring

Underground Art School

Wally's Dog Tale

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

New Twitter homepage

Twitter's got a new homepage today. It's been talked about for a while, but nice to see some change to the site. See Mashable and their related links:

http://mashable.com/2009/07/28/twitter-homepage/

Interesting side note: I came across the blog of one of the ex-lead designers at Google who made this post about leaving Google:

http://stopdesign.com/archive/2009/03/20/goodbye-google.html

and then this post about starting at Twitter:

http://stopdesign.com/archive/2009/03/31/hello-twitter.html.


Fascinating to hear the inside scoop on what happens behinds the scenes. The decision over the color blue that he mentions in the Google post is slightly disturbing.

Regarding the productivity of friendship

I cranked out a post a little while back that discussed the importance of "Carpe Evening," or seizing the immense chunk of time that most of us have after we get back from work. I mentioned how it is easy to get over-involved in college, but once you leave, it's much more difficult to find new activities with fun people.

My brain is wired in a way— like most people, I'm assuming—that requires there's always something to be to work on, little side projects to keep occupied. At the beginning of the summer, I assumed I would keep myself busy with lots of these side projects, looking into some vague ideas that had been percolating over the past few months before graduation.

Bottom line: it hasn't been productive two months, since since I hadn't anticipated how lucky I would be with my housemates and living situation. The story of me getting into this internship and getting into this house with these people involves mostly uninteresting details, but it has turned out to be better than expected, even if I got nothing done outside of work.

Essentially, the past two months have presented me with a very real struggle that I'm sure many others have also dealt with: Does spending time with friends and family qualify as a "productive" or "justifiable" use of your time when you're not getting anything done? Or another way of putting it: is it okay to just enjoy yourself when there's so much else to do?

Yes.

Realistically, there's nothing I need to do when I leave the office, no responsibilities to anyone but myself. There are jobs to search for, portfolio's to bolster, books to read, workouts that need working out, and chores to be done. And yet when you have the chance to go grocery shopping, return two hours later, and then spend another 2.5 hours cooking and eating, it feels okay. It's relaxing, good for the mind (it also tastes delicious).

Again, like many of my other friends, my "summer vacation" was 4 days at home after graduation to, pretty much to unpack and then repack for moving down to Princeton again. Luckily, this summer has actually felt like a summer, even though it includes a five-day work week. Change is afoot as we're about to move out of our house, my roommates have been signing off to other adventures, and I'll be moving across the street for the month of August. Undoubtedly, August will be 354% more productive since I won't have anyone to distract me with all of this "hanging out" and "just chilling" and "listening to our favorite music together while we eat a delicious home-cooked meal."

So to my roommates, thanks for getting in the way of my dreams. Don't think this whole "friendship" thing will make me forget about how much I didn't get done when we were enjoying the sunshine on our patio furniture set or cooking spicy food or hanging out in the parking lot of T.I. (what?). I think I'd rather go live by myself without all of the "excitement," thanks very much.

By the way...will you guys be around for the month of August?

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Weekend of NYC Urbanism

I visited the Highline with a fellow architecture friend, Julia, a few weekends back. After talking the walk, we checked out the exhibit "The Future Beneath Us" at the Public Library and Grand Central Terminal.

For those of you that aren't familiar, The Highline is a new urban park in NYC built on the elevated train tracks on the west side of the city. There was intense debate over its construction, and New York Magazine ran a great article spelling out the story. This is the first completed section, but two more sections are to come.

As an architecture major, I've found that people expect me to have insightful critiques prepared merits, successes and failures of the Highline project as it stands now. While I can't offer anything earth-shattering that hasn't been already said, I will say this: right now, the Highline is novelty. You have to wait in line to see it because everyone is making it their weekend activity, and you're going to hear a myriad of different complaints, compliments, and reactions from all of those people. When asked what I think, I just say "Come back in 10 years, see what has happened then." This is a public park, not a thrill ride, and eventually, I'm assuming that the glimmer will wear off and the Highline will melt into the fabric of NYC, a familiar constant rather than an unfamiliar outlier. When that has happened, we can take another look and see how the Highline is being used, and try to better understand what credentials we can use to best judge it.

Here's what we saw.



First building you encounter is the Standard Hotel. (see this article here about this place!)






Benches.



Nope, don't know these guys, but the seats are very cool.



10th Avenue Square: The street becomes the stage.




View looking out the windows of the 10th Avenue Square.



Back at the audience.



Architecture renderings of the 10th Avenue Square. (via thehighline.org)



Check out the clever drainage on these water fountains!



Looking back at the end.



Two more sections to come in this direction.

Then we moved onto the "The Future Beneath Us":





Drilling samples.



If you've taken a train ride into NYC with me recently, you probably sat there, rolling your eyes as I told you about "how insane this is." When the tunnel under the Hudson River was first constructed in the early 19th century, it had two tracks: one going into the city, and one going out. Guess what? There is STILL only a single track in either direction. The new rail project is going to fix this problem buy constructing new track and tunnels, but until that's built, every person that leaves or enters New York on a commuter train has to go through this tunnel (where your ears pop). How insane is that?




This drilling machine is awesome. 'Nuff said.

I didn't take as many photos of the exhibit as I should have, but it was very interesting to check out. It's always amazing to see what goes on underground and behind the scenes to keep the city going. The history and future of this kind of infrastructure is incredible.

More info and links:

-There is a also great post over at sub-studio design blog that I would recommend reading as well. Their photos have that "I know what I'm doing quality" that mine still tend to lack: The Highline@sub-studio.
-New York Magazine article: read here
-Offical Highline site: thehighline.org.
-Website for The Future Beneath Us exhibit

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A recent music Discovery

A few Saturdays back, I was perusing the new releases rack at Princeton Record Exchange (PREX) and found an album with some beautiful artwork that had “Vampire Weekend” scribbled across the price tag (VW isn’t due for a new album for a while). I was excited, but resisted the impulse buy and went home empty-handed. With some research, I found that I'd just seen the debut album entitled LP from the group Discovery, made up of dynamic duo Rostam Batmanglij from Vampire Weekend and Wes Miles from Ra Ra Riot. I got my hands on the music, and the tracks kept me coming back for more as I tried to figure out what was going on in my headphones: pop, synths, electronic, catchy, groovy, and colorful; that’s what I heard. My roommate came back from work with the mp3’s on his iPod, and we rocked out to it for the next three days. For serious.

Call me crazy (people have) but I enjoy buying music. It’s the physicality of a real CD, popping it into a really loud stereo for the whole album experience. Or just putting it on a shelf and looking at it. The music’s is half the package, and the CD and artwork seal the deal. If the artist can convince me it’s worth paying for their music, I will, like a “thank you, I’m really digging this.”

A week of listening to Discovery convinced me it was time to buy. I called PREX and asked, “Do you have any copies of Discovery’s album left?”

“Do you want on vinyl or CD?”

I was startled. “Um, either.”

“Ya, we’ve got a bunch of copies here,” he answered.

Vinyl? They had it on vinyl? As in a record? When was I?

Then I’m standing in PREX, CD in my left hand and vinyl in my right. Why would I even consider buying an album if I don’t have a record player? But why would I buy the CD if I have the mp3’s already? Why am I even considering paying for this music if it's already on my iPod?

I bought LP on a vinyl LP, and I couldn’t be happier.



* * *

This music purchase was different than most. I stumbled across the album while browsing at a music store on the day before it was supposed to be officially released, had it on my iPod that night without paying for it, and grew to love it with friends. But after I had listened and decided it was worth buying, I had to consider what I would be spending my money on. It’s definitely not the music, because I’ve already got that. Maybe it was the visuals; records are big, and record sleeves have lots of visual real estate; 144 square inches, to be exact. They're also beautiful, and in the case of Discovery’s LP, records are really big and beautiful. The album artwork is amazing, and the backside plays right into my [not-so] secret love for colorful transit maps.

I opened the record when I got home to find a foldout wall poster with lyrics and visuals, as well as a piece of paper with a link to download the album in mp3 format. It was suddenly clear this piece of vinyl wasn’t supposed to replace the music on my iPod or compete with the CD sales, but exist completely independently. The album looks gorgeous, and the fold-out poster unravels the music’s lyrical conundrums. The whole package releases the musical experience from the virtual, intangible world of the iPod, Hype Machine and YouTube, and adds physical legitimacy that you can see and touch, show off and admire.

I’m being over-romantic, but I can’t help but smile when I look over and see that Discovery album on my wall. Sure, I’ll spin it and listen a precious few times, but it will mostly stand as a friendly reminder of a musical discovery that helped me remember why music isn’t just for the ears. Music is something we can see and share with others, pumping us up, making us dance, slowing us down, or letting us unwind. Bands and artists better realize that while people love to listen, people also love if you've got more to offer than just a bunch of mp3's. Since getting music for free is officially “no big deal,” bands have a new responsibility, something that maybe existed in some stint of glory days in the past. If they want to survive—financially, artistically, however—they’ve got to expand their act. It's no secret that it's the concerts that pull in the big bucks, not the CD and vinyl sales. But if you give people a reason to buy some CD's or vinyl’s or something else...well, then I’m interested.

The direction of the music industry is a hot topic right now, and it wouldn’t be out of line to say that the future of music depends on how the music industry deals with change. For incredibly insightful further reading, check out Bob Lefsetz’s blog, The Lefsetz Letter. It’s all good, but maybe start with these posts: Michael Jackson Turning Points, Keith Urban at Staples, and Social Networking.

And be sure to keep listening.
_____________________

Links:

Smiles Captured: A new photo album

My digital camera is very real proof that Japanese engineers are a very crafty bunch. There is a shooting mode called "Smile Detector." Here's what happens: you click the shutter button, and it goes into what I like to call "Smile Capturing Mode." When the camera's face detector detects a face with a little box, it waits until the person is smiling and SNAP! it automatically takes a picture. The "Smile Counter" on the screen increases by one, giving you an exact count of how many smiles you've captured. The amazing thing is that you don't take the picture, it just waits until it seems a smile and captures the moment.

When people hear about this, a short smile/no-smile photo session undoubtedly ensues. A large number of my digital photos are of people with a big, exaggerated, excited, toothy grins on their faces, sometimes with thumbs up, sometimes with eyes closed as they strain to smile, and sometimes with an unenthusiastic look across the rest of their face as they wonder the eff I was talking about when I said my camera could tell they were smiling.

In the camera's settings, you can adjust the "Smile Detection Level" to low, medium or high. I just think of this as setting the "Judgmental Camera Mode" to "open-minded, relatively picky, and severely harsh critic." In all honesty, the Smile Detector is pretty much a gag. Sometimes you don't want people smiling, or you're getting them from the side. For that, you really can't rely on the smile detector.

I have been reorganizing my digital photos on my new computer, and have discovered whole treasure trove of these smile detector photos. To commemorate this discovery, I'll be making a photo album just for these moments of fabricated joy.

Please don't judge the people in the photos too harshly; that's the camera's job.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ERIC!

Today's a big day in our nation's history: ERIC IS 23!

Happy Birthday big guy, hope you can blow out all the candles!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Dumpster Diving 2.0 and "What is New York City?"

Today, the NYTimes came out with an article talking about something I came across last week. It re-sparked some thoughts.

First written about here at Ready Made, some designers have started turning old dumpsters into pools, hidden away in the cracks of the city for a small, select group of people.

The New York Times ran the story today, citing Ready Made's original story about the dumpsters. I love this part:

After Mr. Weyland gave an interview to ReadyMade, the D.I.Y. design magazine, two weeks ago, breathless coverage and links began appearing all over the blogosphere. Soon the location was decoded. One post led to people standing on the roofs of cars in a nearby lot, snapping photos, Mr. Weyland said with an eye roll.

Who wouldn't want to get in on the action?!

Living in Princeton, I've been able to spend a bunch of my weekends in the city with friends. I've never lived in the city, but NYC's glamour as tourist destination wore off years ago, and now I go in for a more "legit" thrill. In my mind, New York is very much two different cities: one for the tourists who can see the sites, eat at the restaurants, drink at the bars, sit in the parks. The other is for people that live there. Life in the city when you're visiting friends exists off the streets and in the air, in apartment buildings, behind the scenes, getting buzzed-in or greeting a doorman.

It's the second kind of city that I prefer, where you fade into the woodwork and rely on each other for entertainment, rather than searching for a shallow thrill in the city-scene. Bars and restaurants become a backdrop for gatherings of friends and family, rather than a novel experience of fun seats and fancy drinks.

When the night is over, you don't head back to a sterile hotel or squeeze into an outgoing train. You go back home, back up into the city where the night continues in the privacy of your own place in the skyline.

These dumpster pools are neat because they're tucked away for a few people to enjoy. It's exclusive, but that's not really the draw for me. It's the private, personal space; it's an urban oasis off above the streets.

But seriously, how can I get in on the action?

Everyone is probably kicking themselves over this one.

This little invention has been floating around for a bit I've seen it mentioned on a bunch of different places already, but I think it's certainly worth a shout-out. In an act of brilliance, someone has come up with a key/ring combo:



I know, why didn't *I* think of that?!

I'm amazed at how much attention this little guy has gotten. Just goes to show how simple a solution can be, and how excited people can get about it once they've seen it.

via Wired and Thrillist

Their site: Amron Exptl.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Two photos on a sunny day




If you don't believe we landed on the moon, you'll love this.

...for the rest of us that don't think it was a huge cover-up, this is just devastating. Apparently all of the original video footage of the first moon landing was accidentally erased to use the tapes for later satellite missions. Irresponsible, frustrating, and a great loss? Yes, yes and yes. Hopefully they'll be able to recover footage from older TV broadcasts, as they propose to do.

Check out the story here: Houston, We Erased the Apoll 11 Tapes

Via NPR

New NYC Subway iPhone app let's you streamline your trip

To keep myself interested during my 1.5 hour commute into NYC last summer, I started trying to figure out how to streamline the trip. I realized that waiting at the front of the train as it arrived in Grand Central but me closer to the station, standing by the 3rd door of the second car in the S-train would give me the fastest exit, and then the 6th car on the downtown 1-line put me right next to the turnstiles to get up to the street.

Turns out I'm not the only person that was thinking like this. A new iPhone app, Exit Strategy, gives you the information in the palm of your hand so there's no trial and error involved. Apparently, people like the idea but are disappointed that there are so many subway lines and stops missing. Hopefully future versions will provide more complete coverage.

Check it out here: Exit Strategy

via Thrillist

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Three interesting points on Princeton architecture

The bumps and shapes on top of the free-standing arcade outside of Frist Campus Center are not just random pieces of architectural flair, but are actually the tops of the letters of the words "FRIST CAMPUS CENTER." Due to disputes between the town, university and the architects, the signage was reduced to what we see now.






Frist Campus Center


Revealing the Letters


(Images courtesy of me.)
__________________________________________________________________

In theoretical computer science, "P=NP" is an unverified identity that has kept computer scientists scratching their heads for a number of years. To make up for my severe lack of expertise in this field, my friend Dan O'Shea did a quick write up of the significance of P=NP:

Dan explains: "P=NP is widely considered the most important, unsolved question in computer science today. The question essentially asks whether a large class of problems labeled NP currently considered mathematically intractable are indeed tractable. The labels P and NP essentially describe how quickly the amount of time and memory required to solve a particular problem (say, sorting a list of N numbers) grows with the size of the problem (here, N). While P problems aren't necessarily easy, they tend to be significantly more manageable than NP problems. Many fields and applications, including the encryption that protects your personal information on the internet, rely on how impossibly time-consuming some NP problems are to solve. If P indeed equals NP, then many problems currently considered intractable could be solved efficiently. Consequently, the question has enormous real-world significance, and the Clay Mathematics Institute has offered a $1 million Millennium Prize to anyone who answers the question with proof."


To honor this seemingly insurmountable, theoretical obstacle, the Computer Science Building has a pattern of bricks on the side that reads "P=NP?" in 7-bit ASCII values:


x 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 x
x 0 1 1 1 1 0 1 x
x 1 0 0 1 1 1 0 x
x 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 x
x 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 x

Here are the images:

Computer Science Building


Close up of the brick pattern


Apparently, if the question is ever answered, the question mark can be removed.

Thanks to Dan O'Shea over at djoshea.com for filling the blanks with his computer science expertise.

This information courtesy of Princeton's Department of Computer Science, photos courtesy of me.

__________________________________________________________________

(Note: looks like some of these images aren't available if you're not on the Princeton network. I'll look into it and hopefully have the links fixed soon.

When it was constructed in 1951, Corwin Hall stood near the corner of Washington Road and Prospect Ave. To make way for the construction of Roberston Hall, which would be the new Woodrow Wilson School, Corwin Hall was moved to its current location at the back of Skudder Plaza, behind the fountain. Mudd Manuscript Library's blog has an interesting post with the following video of the move in action:



From the air


From the side (that's Frick Lab in the background)


These photos and facts can be found in links on this page: Corwin Hall Buildling Highlights

(part of An Interactive Campus History)

There's a probably an official psychological term for this

We bought toilet paper for the house a few grocery trips ago. As we were unpacking the groceries, I walked over to the stairs with the package of toilet paper and tossed it up.

About a week later, still sitting at the top of the stairs was this:



If you're wondering what that is, it's an almost empty bag of toilet paper rolls. What that means is that whenever one of us needed to replace the toilet paper, we would just go to the plastic bag at the top of the stairs, take a roll, and walk away. None of us bothered to move the package as we passed it in our everyday routine, probably assuming that someone else would eventually take care of it.

A few grocery trips later, we bought more toilet paper. Again, I threw this to the top of the stairs assuming it would be moved and taken care of by one of us. A few days later I captured this image:



Yes, that's another opened bag of toilet paper rolls, and at least one has already been removed. Once again, none of us bothered to move the bag to the bathroom and put it under the sink, where it belongs. Instead, we just left it there and ignored it until we needed it.

Isn't there some kind of term for assuming everyone else will take care of it? What about selective attention? Maybe I've discovered a new phenomenon?

Toilet paper avoidance syndrome (TPAS)?

We're landing on the moon! ...again?

Came across this great site from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum that is going to recreate the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing in real-time, it's just going to be 40 years later. They're using three Twitter accounts to track the conversation between the astronauts and mission control, but it seems like you'll also be able to listen in and hear the entire thing as it happens, with video and photos. There's even a desktop app you can download that tracks the misson's progress and location from earth to moon.

They have footage of President Kennedy (who was killed 6 years before the Apollo 11 mission) delivering his famous speech where he states that "we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard."



And yes, I already downloaded the desktop app.

www.wechoosethemoon.org

Friday, July 10, 2009

Great HP Video

Featured on Vimeo today:

HP - invent from Tom and Matt on Vimeo.

Regarding the fear of flying: Is the Airbus a Lemon?

You probably gasped when you read the title of this post. How DARE I, right? Doesn't your dad fly Airbuses for a living? How could even I consider that?

Calm yourselves, people.

In a recent article over at Salon, Patrick Smith asks this question and quickly explains that NO, the Airbus is not a lemon. Read the article here: Is the Airbus a Lemon?

You can imagine the typical reactions and strings of questions that I (along with my brother and sister, probably) receive up on hearing that my dad is a pilot. "Was he ever home?" "Was he in the Airforce?" "Is that scary?" "Do you fly for free?" "Does he have a moustache?"

Yes. No. No. Hell no. Yes, it's great.

And ime and time again, I have attempted to dispel people's fears of flying by providing them with raw, irrefutable statistical data:

"You're scared of flying? Think of the thousands of flight that take off from every airport in the WORLD every hour, going to every other airport in the world, and how every few years we hear about a MAJOR plane crash." The recent Airbus crashes are a fluke.

Being so close to the airline industry has not only made me immune to the fear of flying, but also oblivious to it. I have never second guessed flying, usually look forward to it, and am always amazed when people are scared. Do you have any idea how much research, development and testing goes into every aircraft built? And do you have any idea how much training, re-training and proficiency checks airline pilots go through every year? Here's a hint: it's a lot.

For as long as I've been alive, my dad has always been level-headed, professional, proud, and devoted to his career, and it irks me greatly when people can offhandedly say that flying is dangerous or life-threatening. Airlines have a responsibility to millions of people, and they can't even afford to consider being anything less than safe. I'm not scared to admit that accidents happen, they do. And that's why you're more likely to get killed on the New Jersey Turnpike, rather than have your plane crash.

It's terrifying even considering the notion of "crash" when, again, I've grown up so close to flying. Yet it would be unrealistic to think that my dad, or any other pilot, has never had to consider the notion. But pilots are lucky: while most of us are signing our lives away when we climb into our cars to drive ourselves to work everday, airline pilots get into an aircraft that has been safety-checked by a team of engineers and mechanics, armed with an advanced computer that is essentially capable of flying the thing itself, and watched by teams of flight control operators in towers across the country.

So I ask you: who's scared now?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

On blogging, and why you're reading this

I'm not trying to keep this blog a secret, but I certainly don't think it'll make me famous. I tell people about it hoping they'll check it out and read what I write, but when they ask "What's it about?", my most recent response is "stuff in my life and things I find relevant in the world."

A "blog" is just a place where you can publish yourself for free. Anyone can see it, read it, copy it, and comment, if you allow. But there are thousands and thousands of blogs, and new ones being started everyday. With those kinds of numbers, how do you decide which ones to read when there are SO MANY to choose from? That's easy: you go with what you know, and you go with what you like.

If you're reading this, you probably found this blog from me telling you in (1) an email (2) an away message (3) a tweet or (4) my Facebook status. You probably know me personally in some respect, family, friend, co-worker, etc.

Essentially, I'm the reason you're here.

It's easy to say that blogs fuel narcissism, that they give people who love attention the chance to put themselves out there. Sure, but some people like to share, and in general, we enjoy knowing what our friends are doing. Undoubtedly, blogs have the dangerous potential of fueling self-indulgence, and as a result, IMHO, you have to give your audience a justifiable reason to read.

My audience is family and friends, and the content will be both personal and impersonal. The personal stuff will be pictures from things I've been doing and places I'm going, a diary of my experiences and is as much for me to look back on as it is to share with others.

More importantly, however, the "impersonal" posts will be things I find "culturally relevant" in today's world, articles, images, sounds and videos that I think are worth sharing. The subject matter will cater to my interests, of course, but I'll make every attempt to shape those interests around things that I think people will enjoy reading about.

In the end, my hope is that my friends and family will continue to read to learn about intriguing points of culture, as well as what's happening in my life. The "internet" is the ultimate tool for learning about what is going on around the world, and I'm fully engrossed and fascinated by the wealth of information available. Keeping it for yourself is pointless, however, as it is meant to be shared and discussed. This is a place for to me present my angle on all of it in hopes that others will find it interesting and learn more.

Kudos to Pixar

A recent NYTimes article discusses how Pixar has taken some "chances" with their past few releases, and despite skepticism from analysts about the success of the movies, they've been huge success. Nothing wrong with pushing the envelope, apparently, even for a company that caters to such a wide audience.

Check out the article: Analyst Admits to Being ‘Dead Wrong’ After Disney’s ‘Up’ Is Big Earner .

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Recent Grocery Shopping

Exciting images from our recent grocery shopping trip. Grand total: $153.25.

Shopping Excursion

New Electric Razor: A Bizarre Shipping Experience

I had some money from xmas to spend at Best Buy, and since I have been using the same razor for the past ~4 months to avoid spending money on new ones, I decided to invest in an electric razor. I went online, found one that I liked (even works in the shower!), and bought it with expedited shipping.

I slept in late on Friday and checked the tracking info when I woke up. The UPS site said it had been delivered at 12:20PM, so I went downstairs and opened the front door, expecting to see it waiting on the porch. It was 12:45PM and there was nothing there. My roommates who were home hadn't seen a truck, and we checked all around the house for the package to no avail.

I stopped by the UPS store, they said to call UPS, UPS said to call Best Buy. I called Best Buy later in the afternoon and they said to call UPS again. I did this, and got a smart person who "initiated a trace" on the package. On a whim, I checked out on the porch again when I was back home around 5:30PM, and voila, there was the package, five hours late. Here's the photo recap:

@ 12:20 p.m.



@ 5:00 p.m.



I have not attempted to figure out what happened or why this happened. I was just happy I didn't have to deal with package tracing, and that I was able to use the razor for my post-jog shave that evening.

ROAD TRIP: Princeton Printing & Mailing Office

Last week I went on a little field trip to see Princeton's Printing & Mailing office, where most of the official printed publications for the university are produced. It was amazing to see the kinds of machinery and technology involved in print production. Naturally, I l]took lots of photos, so let's recap.

To cut huge amounts of paper at once, they have this machine with a giant blade that comes down and slices across the sheets. It only cuts when both buttons are pressed at once, so your fingers are chopped off. The flat surface of the cutter is covered with a grid of ball bearing floating on air (like an air hockey table) so the paper can slide around easily.
From Printing & Mailing Office


Putting in the paper:
From Printing and Mailing Office


This things applies the glue to the stacks of paper that become books. One of the technicians said the glue is so hot that if you stuck your finger in, you would come out with just bone:
From Printing and Mailing Office


Sorting and stacking action shot:
From Printing and Mailing Office


One of the facility's two iGens. These things are massive digital printers that never stop running and are connected to a central server at Xerox so they can be continuously monitored and maintained:
From Printing and Mailing Office


The iGen control station:
From Printing and Mailing Office


As a historic side note, the Printing & Mailing building used to be a hangar for Princeton's Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering department. A few years back, there was a hovercraft hanging from the ceiling, since it was never moved after the engineers left. Below is a photo of it in action, and more info can be found here.



Thanks to Darryl and the rest of the staff at the Printing & Mailing Office for the tour of the facilities, and to Shani for driving.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Bad interview aftermath, and reflections on an undergraduate architecture education

Today, I had a one-sided Skype video interview with a big-name European architecture firm, hoping to secure a spot as an intern for a year or so. It was terrible. First of all, I didn't do anything wrong. In fact, I hardly had the chance to do or say anything wrong because the guy on the other end spoke the ENTIRE time. I'll paraphrase what he said:

"We don't want people that are living in a fantasy world. We want people who know how to deal with rainwater and foundations."

Let me explain.

I graduated with an A.B. in Architecture and a Certificate in Urban Studies. Architecture majors have "studio," where you spend [almost all of] your time working through architectural problems in drawings and models, and regularly present your work to juries. With the feedback from your professors, assistant instructors (AI's) and jurors, the projects continually develop until you present in the final review.

Princeton's undergraduate architecture education is not a technical education; it is a liberal arts program. If you looked at my portfolio work from the last 3 years, you would probably say "Wow, you've got some nice diagrams and drawings and layout, but I don't think that your buildings would stand up." I would respond "Maybe, but who cares? It's the idea that matters more." You would probably respond "That's silly, what's the point of architecture if it can't actually be built?" I would probably just walk away, as I've had that conversation too many times.

Look, people. I'll speak to what I know: undergraduate architecture majors (not civil engineers) at Princeton hardly worry about if the building will "stand up" because it doesn't matter. Yet. I never planned on graduating and going to start my own firm, turning my wacky conceptual montages and diagrams into actual buildings. I worked under the assumption that I would learn the technical details of construction in a real office or in graduate school, and delve in the fascinating conceptual potential of architecture while at Princeton.

"Well, wouldn't it make sense to just learn a little about the structural stuff and not ignore it?"

Of course, and there are required classes where we learn about construction, materials, loads, etc. But Princeton's undergraduate architecture program is not pre-professional, and exists within the context of a liberal arts curriculum where you might be taking classes on Chinese, economics, music theory and pottery at the same time. If I KNEW that I wanted to be an architect ASAP, I would have enrolled in a Masters program where I would have done nothing but architecture for 5 years. Instead, I attended a liberal arts university where you don't decide your major until the end of your sophomore year.

Here's the point: this guy was out of line in telling me that I need to "reconnect with reality" if I want to be an architect. He could have simply said that I was not experienced enough, and I would have agreed, because I'm not. Instead, he explained that lots of my work looks like student work. Well, I was JUST a student. There are no drawings of roofs and gutters? Well, we were never told to deal with DRAINAGE in our projects. No sections of foundations and concrete? I've got no clue how foundations work. Yet.

He even went as far as to explain what would happen if he hired me: I would work for this team, but wouldn't know how to do this so I would be bumped to this team, where I wouldn't understand this other thing, where I would be bumped down again, but I don't speak Italian so then I would be put in the model shop in the basement where I would be sad forever and ever.

To be honest, it felt as if he really wanted to put me in my place. Thing is, I know my place: I'm inexperienced because I haven't been educated yet, and my college education was not ONLY about architecture. Some would call that the curse of a liberal arts education, but I see myself as capable of doing more. You've just got to start somewhere.

So I don't think I got the job.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Fin de la Blog Hiatus: A near near-death experience

(Because one of my biggest pet peeves is people apologizing and giving excuses for not keeping up to date with their blogs/sites, I won't give any flowery explanation for the silence. I've just been busy, but I've got a backlog of things to post. Get exciteddddd.)

I spent my "fourth" in NYC seeing friends, fireworks, and going crazy, and sort of almost died. Driving back to the apartment after a dinner of Pho Bang in Chinatown, our cab decided to accelerate into the a cab parked on the side of the road, resulting in a violent fender bender where the fender of the other cab fine and our cab's front-left side got destroyed. Here's the photo:



Let me answer some of your questions right off the bat:

1) Yes, we're all fine.

2) No, we're not going to sue.

3) Yes, we're sure we're not going to sue. Please see #1.

4) No, we didn't wait two hours for the cops. It would have been at least 2 hours for them to arrive with all of the 4th of July festivities going on.

5) OBVIOUSLY we didn't pay for that cab ride.

6) Yes, Mom, we're actually fine.

7) Yup, we took two more cabs that night.

8) No, I don't know what that liquid stuff pouring out from under the car is. Yes, it might be gas...at least that's what the girl on the sidewalk that screamed "GET OUT OF THE CAR!" after impact thought it was. We promptly acquiesced to her request. (thanks to Chris for the inquiry)

The funny thing was that when I got into the cab, I pulled the seatbelt across myself, but then said outloud "Nah, what am I doing?!" (Subtext: "Cab drivers are the best drivers in the entire city! Am I right?!")

I guess I can mark off that square in my game of "Bingo: The Crazy, Unpredictable and Unexpected Life Experiences Edition"?

Photos from the weekend.