The tiniest world

In 1989-1990, when I was 17 and 18, I spent a year in Düsseldorf, Germany as an exchange student. Toward the end of the year, I spent two weeks on a short-term exchange in Kleve, a smaller town on the Dutch border. The mother was 34 and recently divorced, her children 9 and 5. They were a wonderful family, and I visited them a few other times. When the mother reverted to her unmarried name, though, I lost touch with the family.

Yesterday, I decided to Google the kids, Nils and Birke, who would now be adults. Given that Birke‘s name is unusual, I was delighted to find that she wasn’t just online, but had recent pictures on Flickr. Nils and Birke are now grownups.

But it gets weirder.

Some of the pictures were taken in New Haven.

It turns out, Birke used to be the au pair for a family in New Haven. She’s very close to the family, in the way that I’m close to my German host family in Düsseldorf. She keeps coming back to live with them.

But it gets weirder.

The father is an architect and adjunct professor who co-taught one of the design studios last semester. Moreover, one of my good friends here works for him. Through her, I’ve on a friendly basis with his architects!

And of course it turns out that she’ll be in New Haven for a few months, later this year.

Birke credits a number of things in her life to the visit of a 17 year old girl when she was 9. I credit a number of things to a sweet family with a 9 and a 5 year old. We’re both delighted to see the things we have in common now. I can’t quite believe all of this. I may be the queen of the small world, but this is the smallest world coincidence yet. It keeps making me cry with joy.

Food allergies or food poisioning

I was in NYC Thursday night, where I met a number of people: Jane, Jane-who-works-with-Jane, Jenn, Heather, Olof and Leonora. Last stop of the evening was dinner at Peasant, a nice Nolita restaurant. I had skate wing, and unfortunately, I think that it was either bad or more likely, was served with some kind seafood I can’t eat (I’m allergic to mussels, clams, scallops and so on), or was near it.
By 6 a.m. Friday, I had a splitting headache and stomach cramps. Since then, I’ve eaten a few triscuits, a few tortilla chips, a few crackers, and a bowl of rice and chicken broth. Still have the headache, but the stomach cramps are subsiding.
Tomorrow, I go to Seattle for the Microsoft Social Computing Symposium, and I hope I’m recovered by then. This has been miserable.

primiti too ta!

Finally, I’ve found one of my favorite ever things: Primiti Too Taa! Created by Colin Morton and Ed Ackerman in 1988, it is a typewriter animation of a Kurt Schwitters sound poem. I saw it at an animation festival in 1989, when I was 17, had it on video, and then lost it.

Finally, yay Internets, there it is again. You can even watch it directly as a movie file. I believe it is also on the film festival circuit again, according to the Primiti Too Taa site.




One year ago, one year later


Originally uploaded by maximolly.

This picture was taken at LAX on May 1, 2005. Enrique picked me up at 10 a.m., and we spent the day together before I flew to London (and then Amsterdam). It was one of the best days I’ve ever spent with anyone.

We didn’t kiss goodbye. But we did take this picture. I think the grinning ebullience says it all. The nicest part is that a year later, it still feels this happy. I love you, Enrique.

My final review is about to start

In about 40 minutes, I’m scheduled to give my final presentation in our year-end review. I’m terrified, since these things are critical and my project needs some tearing into. Here’s hoping that the kind of criticism won’t be like the urban ecologist at my last crit. One hopes that won’t be the case.

In addition, one year ago today, Enrique and I met. One year. Yay us! (Is it fitting that we’re doing our final presentations on our anniversary?)

Jane Jacobs has died

What very sad news. Jane Jacobs has died at age 89. She was especially known for her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, which had a far-flung impact. Other works, like The Economy of Cities, are cited by people like Ed Soja as being incredibly forward-thinking, for as much as they were dismissed at the time.

I love this picture of her:

The excitable crowd: characterizing social, mobile space

When I wrote the paper on women and mobility a few weeks ago, it put me on track to doing what I’d come to Yale to do. I wanted to look at mobile and ubiquitous technology from within a spatial, urban, architectural framework. For a variety of reasons, I’ve decided to pursue my Berlin and Ostalgie research as a smaller project, and the mobile technology and space project as my thesis.

With that in mind, I’m posting the chapter I just handed in for our end of year review. Parts of this come from the paper I posted a few weeks ago. Nobody offered comments, but I would really welcome yours.

The excitable crowd: characterizing mobile, social space

Off it goes!

Three hours ago, I handed in my thesis chapter for the semester. I even managed to get five hours of sleep last night (2:30 a.m. till 7:30 a.m.) and did include Henri Lefebvre, Michel de Certeau and Bruno Latour in my thesis.

More soon. Now? I nap.

My watershed moment

Well, that was fun.

Sean and I just presented our final boards for our project on Berlin, which examines Richard Rogers’ Daimler-Chrysler Headquarters on Potsdamer Platz, Potsdamer Platz within Berlin, and Berlin within its broader relationship to water.

We’ve been working on it for a while, getting benign feedback from critics. Though we presented a set of maps at three interim crits and two meetings with the studio critic, none of our critique focused on the content of those maps. Nobody suggested that there might be someone on campus we might want to talk to, in order to make sure we understood the elements of this complex ecosystem we were trying to map.

And nobody told us that there would be an urban ecologist on the jury who specializes in water and watersheds.

Sean did fine. I got creamed. I got humiliated in the worst way, when someone asks you to define something the way she wants to hear it, and I didn’t do it right. Her tone of voice was different with me than it was with feedback to other students. Among other points of feedback, she told me that I should go look up watershed in Wikipedia, so rudimentary was my knowledge.

But a few words to my defense. It turns out, my knowledge of these things, while that of a water ecology neophyte, are not as rudimentary as the visiting expert might have had me believe.

My information for this project has largely come from materials in the Berlin Urban Development department. Many of these are good English translations of German materials. In these materials, I’ve come to define the drainage basin as the water catchment area. The materials I’ve been using don’t use the word “watershed.” They use “water catchment.”

So I suppose I’ve been initiated. This is the first class I’ve taken where I have to pin up and discuss my project with a jury. Architecture students go through this all the time, but not history and theory students like me. I got three hours of sleep and I got slammed. I think I can consider myself initiated into architecture school.