RIP Guinness, 1997-2008

Jingle dog

More said news from my family. On Christmas Eve, we had to put Skeeter to sleep. It was sudden and very sad.

I just got a call from my Mom that Guinness, our other dog, had to be put to sleep as well. He had a sudden liver problem and was going to need to go through far too much for an 11 year old dog in order to have a chance of recovery. So today at lunch, they let him go.

Guinness was my stepfather's dog, Skeeter was my mom's. The two lived together their entire lives. He was a Glen of Imaal Terrier, Skeeter was a PBGV: rare breeds that don't look — or act — at all dignified. Glens don't usually bark, PBGV's are verbal, Guinness picked up the habit. His bark was a clipped "Rrrrooo!" with a rolled R.

Guinness's job was to be alpha over Skeetie — he shoulder-checked him into the pool, chased him from the couch, and tried without success to get Skeeter's rawhides. He was also very good at chasing raccoons up trees and keeping them there — for hours.

My mom says that when Skeeter died, Guinness became an old man quickly. It's so sad to know that neither of them will greet me when I come home the next time. The house will be so quiet.

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QotD: My First Boyfriend/Girlfriend

How old were you when you had your first "official" boyfriend or girlfriend? What was he/she like?

I guess it would have to be Bryan Iverson when I was 13, the summer between 7th and 8th grade. He was older than me — he was 16, almost 17, and I met him at the TCITY summer school program at Macalester College. When I went to Rocky Horror for the first time, he came along and our knees touched. This was all very exciting. When I went away for a week, he wrote me letter after letter. It was great. One afternoon, I met up with him in South Minneapolis and he carried a little boom box that was playing Let It Be by the Replacements. It was the first time I heard it and it's still one of my very favorite albums today. My parents had no idea where I was and they so completely grounded me. They were ready to kill me. (I'm still sheepish writing about it 23 years later.) That was the day that I kissed him. It took about two hours before I had the guts to do it.

But for some reason, after two weeks or so, he dumped me. Maybe it was when I went to camp? He'd apparently been very into Sarah, my so-called best friend. I have some recollection that he was dating me to be around her. She and I, later that year, tricked him into coming over to her house and we both jumped out and laughed at him. He drove away. I still feel bad about that.

I burned every single one of the letters Bryan sent me using a pack of matches he gave me. I counted them off. 1. 2. 3. It's one of the biggest regrets I have: I wish I hadn't gotten rid of them.

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There’s a nice epilogue to the whole grading story for the semester. On Monday, I got email from the professor who taught my favorite class last semester — a straight history class on Europe between the wars. I got an A- on the paper and an A in the class. (It made me cry.) This is all the more amazing to me because it’s the first college level straight history class I’ve taken. I’ve taken history of any number of things, just not a strict history class. It was a lot of work — sometimes 500+ pages of reading a week. But I loved it.

So I stopped by to visit the professor on Wednesday to say hello and thank you. He owns a little red terrier who comes to school with him. She and I like each other. I rub her ears, he and I discuss Germany history in the 20s and the 60s.

Anyway, another student tried to open the door and she ran over, barking. The student quickly shut the door.

“Very interesting,” he said. “You know what she just did? She protected you.”

I looked down and she was looking up at me, very pleased with herself. I told her she was a good dog and of course, rubbed her ears.

Things must be okay if my favorite professor’s terrier is going to bat for me.

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Prepare for the death of your ego

When I was began thinking about applying to graduate school in late 2004, I had a conversation with Peter Lunenfeld, a professor in the graduate Media Design Program at Art Center College of Design — he had visited Ivrea and I was one of his hosts there.

"Prepare for the death of your ego," he said.

It wasn't until a few weeks ago that I began to really feel how true that was. When I did my master's, I had already internalized just how irrelevant my previous career and life experience was. You think that architects care about interaction design, the web, mobile phones? Save for scant few exceptions, think again. There's a rant I wrote at the end of my first year titled "fuck you, architecture," where I lamented how architecture steals from many disciplines but declares its own as pure.

The Ph.D. is another layer of this. For us, our entire currency is papers. In the third year of our studies, we do our generals, and in our case, that means submitting a dossier of 6 papers we've written throughout the two years of coursework. We then defend them. This means that no paper is ever really complete: we keep reworking all but three of them. I didn't know how emotionally taxing it would be to write a paper that became 50 pages long (because it didn't have a point), then rewrite it to 25 pages in which I carefully reasoned my argument. It represents the strongest academic writing I've ever done and it still only got a B+. (This will change when I rewrite it, but still, ouch.) I've collapsed into a crying heap after not eating because I was working in the arts library. I've declared on Twitter, no less, that I was utter shit.

Prepare for the death of your ego, indeed.

Last weekend, I went to Savannah for the IXDA Interaction 08 conference. My first night (after a lot of wine and a Roberta Flack sighting in the Sheraton Four Points hotel bar — she may have killed us softly with her song, but I digress), Matt wondered why I wasn't blogging: he wanted to read more about what I was doing in school. I tried to explain any number of things. School has made me very internally focused, made me realize that my audience is my professor or advisor, my fellow students and the head of my program — and that little else matters against that. Thinking of externalizing it just makes me tired. Moreover, I'm competitive. I look at the writing of my good friends (and for that matter, Enrique), and I think: how can I possibly keep up with this? Where do these guys find the energy?

So back to the conference. I wasn't sure what to expect but the whole thing was dam breaking. It made me realize that I do still belong to the interaction design community — more than ever. And it made me realize how much I miss being engaged with the people in it. Finally, writing is so damn hard — it used to be so easy for me when I was younger, but what did I know then? So the way around it, then, is quite likely to write more. And to put it out there, and see what comes back.

I don't think this is so much the reinstantiation of my ego, but maybe the trusting of my own voice. That feels like a heartening thing.

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So well, I fly back today

It's been a really hard Christmas, a long trip (3 weeks) away from Princeton, long enough for a side visit to San Antonio to visit Enrique's family. I also have found a wedding dress and potential wedding location, a great caterer that I can't use at said location, and a flower shop run by two guys out of a former gas station. I have three papers due in a week and will likely only complete two. Par for the course, I hear. We want a dog but we're low on cash.

I guess all of this is to say that I'm ready to get my 2008 on. I need to get back to the routine, eat normal amounts, drink less, exercise. You know the drill. I feel optimistic about this.Plus, soon we get new classes.  That's always fun.

Also, every year, I post a look back on 2007. I started writing mine but then we had to put the dog to sleep and I felt rotten and didn't really feel like looking back on anything.

Okay so, safe travels. Maybe I should blog more. Hm.

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Skeeter, 1994-2007

My mom got Skeeter around the time I finished college in November 1994. He was a Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen, a PBGV for short. The best part of coming home to visit my family was the cacophonous din he made when I walked in the door, like an avant-garde cello concerto. Tail wagging, banging into everything. He would bump his forehead against my shins so I could rub his ears.

This morning, we had to put Skeeter to sleep. He'd had a bunch of complications related to a low blood platelet count. He was still able to walk but he was so tired. He'd been through hell yesterday but the decline was so fast, not a long, slow illness. He was hanging out in my room with me on Wednesday, the day after I arrived — jumped up on the arm chair you see above to hang out with me. And that din? He made noise when I walked in the door Tuesday night.

Before the vet administered the shot, he bumped his forehead into my shins so I could rub his ears one last time. My mom and stepfather gave him hugs. We all petted him. And then we let him go.

I love that little guy. I'm going to miss him so much. Coming home will never be the same.

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QotD: My First Single

Music-wise, what was the first 45, single or download you bought? 
Submitted by Paddy Melt Wagon.

I took the bus to the Midway neighborhood of St. Paul, to Montgomery Ward's record department. I was 8 — a second grader — and I bought Blondie's "Rapture." (To be honest, I think that my friend's mom must have been with us and that we did not take the bus alone as eight year-olds, but maybe we did.)

First record album: Diana Ross Diana.

First cassette: Men At Work Cargo.

First CD: I'm embarrassed to say it might've been Pink Floyd's The Wall because I wanted to buy something where the sound quality would matter. In reality, it was a Christmas present. I'd also wanted Louder than Bombs but it was too expensive on CD.

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We are engaged!

(You probably have heard this elsewhere)…

A week ago tonight on the 2.5 year anniversary of when we met and started dating, Enrique asked me to marry him. I said yes. (Three times.)

To the left is a picture of my Grandma Mae's ring. She gave it to me when I was 10 or so but told me I couldn't have it till I was grown up; when I was grown up but actively nomadic, she said I should settle down a bit. I think this moment qualifies.

Tentative plans for summer 2008 wedding in Minneapolis, possibly later than summer depending on a whole bunch of things.

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Amidst boxes, woods, rabbits, squirrels, and crickets

A week ago, we got to Princeton. It's more bucolic than even Ivrea was (in a different way: no mountains and fewer corn fields but lots of trees and woods) — as an avowed city person, I never expected to be living in a town of 14,000. Then again, I hadn't expected to start a PhD program. But it feels natural, good, comfortable. We're happy with where we're living. Butler is a tract housing colony built in the 40s, with a few houses built in the 80s (like ours). It feels rather like a summer camp, cabins and rabbits and trees and incessant crickets. The community garden is so close to our house, we can pick basil and tomatoes nearly outside our door. (I have plans for a plot next year.) All told, it's delightful.

There's so much going on with moving, unpacking, orientations, meeting the 27 masters in architecture students who started with us, reconnecting with our old friends from the year ahead of us in our master's program, Sara and Joy, who are in their second year here. Today for the first time, all four new PhD students were in one room: me, Enrique, Pep (from Barcelona) and Rafico (from Montreal). We met with Beatriz Colomina, who runs the doctoral program, and discussed the proseminar and what classes we'd be taking. Of particular interest: Ed Eigen's 18th/19th century architectural theory course, Sara Whiting's public sphere theory class, Emily Thompson's historiography of technology course in the History of Science department. Classes start Monday. In two weeks, we'll be up to our eyeballs.

The activity is a good thing. My trip to San Francisco was pure joy, mischief, connection and fun — enough so to trick myself into believing I still lived there. Mike and Liz got married, one of the most joyful, most perfectly-them weddings I've attended. I got plenty of time with close friends (<3 NEB!) and yet other people I missed altogether. In between, I met new people and met up with some people I've worked with in the past but not seen in a long time. Anita was my kind host and when she went to Burning Man — I skipped it this time around — I had the run of her apartment. Given its proximity to Bi-Rite Creamery (with its stunning, delectable salted caramel ice cream), it's a wonder I didn't burst. The trip was also just long enough that it was really time to go when I left. Had it been shorter, I would've been shattered. Instead, I've got sun-bleached hair, freckles, and a head full of lovely thoughts, memories of different perches over the city, and a warm heart.

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