The best ever valentine

Two years ago today, I returned to London from Ivrea, leaving behind the guy I may or may not have been dating; I was about to fly back to San Francisco. My good girlfriend, C., was my valentine date at Wagamama.  We invoked the cone of silence and she told me about a promising date she'd had with a lovely mutual friend–she couldn't wait to see him again. We parted ways and I headed back to the hotel, setting my alarm for 5:00 a.m. so I'd make my flight from Heathrow to SFO.

Early in the morning, I had 60 seconds of email connectivity before the connection crashed. I found an email from Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen, titled "Congratulations!" I gasped. Eeva is the head of the history/theory program in the Yale School of Architecture. I got into Yale. I got into Yale! I. Got. Into. Yale! It was too early to call friends in Italy, too late to call my parents or East Coast friends. So I called John and Maggie and gleefully shared the news. From the airport, I called Jenn and Tristam ("Wicked!" he said, half in sleep). My flight back to the US was filled with peace and happiness.

As for my dinner date two years ago? She spends her life with the guy she told me about. And me? I'm celebrating my Valentine's Day again with Enrique, one of the five people who got a congratulatory phone call and note two years ago. Funny how that date turned out for me and C.

(This time around, Enrique and I are on our way to dinner at Thali for Indian food from Hyderabad. We're braving the elements for naan.)

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Unknown preciptation

When I got to school today, someone said, "If Eskimos have 200 words for snow, what would they call this?"

My response: "Fucking sucks."

This unknown precipitation is, well, just that: sharp ice crystals flying through the air at high speed. Can you say, "microdermabrasion?" It's not entirely snow. It may turn to freezing rain, which is always fun. I would prefer big fat snowflakes than falling on my butt due to the ice, like I did at lunch.

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QotD: I Was The Sous Chef

Who taught you how to cook?
Submitted by Donna.

I did. Well, me and the New Basics Cookbook were really what did it. It was a matter of learning that the combination of decent tomatoes, olive oil, fresh basil, red wine and al dente pasta were enough to make a delicious dish. Around that time, I was living in Minneapolis for the year. My mom and I were both single and living together. That year, she asked if I wanted to cook Christmas dinner. I tried the orange-roasted capon  and it was delicious. It all went from there, but the pasta sauce recipe was the key. I even immortalized in in 1995 online, on my first personal site. The purpose of pasta sauce is to woo.

All of my friends have memories of me serving them food way too late: I remember one time, serving dinner at midnight. They remember the 35 person Thanksgiving dinner where we sat on the floor in 1998, with the gravy that Maggie made and Molly and Rosemary walking around, serving people the cinnamon ice cream. They remember SXSW the first year I attended, making pasta for 50 people at Lane and Courtney's house when they were roommates, not yet dating.

A New Way to Cook
Sally Schneider

These days, my skills of scale have greatly improved. I cook almost every night (Enrique does dishes) and we usually eat at a reasonable time. Last night, I made a white bean soup from the improvisational directions set out in A New Way to Cook — it had bacon, shallots, onions, carrots, great northern white beans, and mustard greens, and we had garlic toast with it. So good. We eat a fair amount of greens — broccoli rabe and brussels sprouts are favorites, cooked in a little olive oil and finished with lemon. Sometimes, I cook for the rest of our cohort (the five of us) — that was recently beef bourginon, and before that, Rick Bayless's tomatillo-braised pork roast.

I love the creative, warmth and joy that cooking imparts; it's different than what I study, what I read for research and school, what I do on the Internet. It's personal and it brings people together. I actually like cooking more than I like eating.

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QotD: Next On My Itinerary

What's the next country you want to visit? 
Submitted by Schomer.

Where do I not want to go?

For one, I want to go back to India. That's where I spent the summer (which you may not know if you didn't know me pre-Vox) and I loved it. I was in Bangalore and it kills me that I can't go to Doors of Perception or my friend Vinay's wedding. But it's just not going to happen right now. I really only saw Bangalore when I was there, deciding to stay put and love where I was rather than getting frustrated by traveling alone. I want to go back for a long time.

I've traveled extensively and lived in Germany, Holland, France, Italy, and India and have spent substantial time in London. There are places I've never been, however. I've always wanted to go to Vienna. I've never been to Greece or the countries in the former Yugoslavia — I'd love to see Croatia and Slovenia (and Ljubljana in particular).

Russia! The Trans-siberian or Trans-mongolian! I would love to see Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand. I've been to China and very briefly, Japan, but would love to return.

I've never been to South America and save for passing through, Mexico, but Enrique's family lived there for a while. Since his native language is Spanish, it opens up communication for traveling and that will be wonderful. Birke and Darci have shared their accounts of Argentina and it sounds wonderful, my host mom in Germany enchanted me with discussions of Chile. I'd love, also, to visit Brazil.

When I went to India, I had actually hoped I might find a way to Africa. Uganda was of interest. My dad's been to Ghana and I've always wanted to see it. I know that Namibia and South Africa are stunning and I loved the travel stories of my friends Dave and Jo as they traveled across Africa in a Range Rover. Amazing.

And of course, there's Australia and New Zealand. I don't even know where to start. But I want to go.

Where do I not want to go.

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QotD: It’s Like Riding A Bike

Who taught you how to ride a bike?

It's less a matter of learning and more a matter of when I first got the hang of it. My parents both taught me in the usual way. My red-white-and-blue bike, bought when I was 4, came from Sears. It ran out of oil and sounded like a complaining cello, making the thing harder to ride than anything in a hefty spinning class.

The day I finally could do it without training wheels, though, must have been Easter when I was 5 (that would've been 1977). I only know this because the Wizard of Oz was on TV, which they played annually on Easter. After watching it, one of my parents (I forget who) ran alongside me and then let go. Off I went. I recall even riding around my St. Paul block.

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QotD: Counting Sheep

What do you do to ensure you get a good night's sleep?
Submitted by Jacob’s Ladder.

Curl up with Enrique.

Wear one of the eyeshades that I got from the few Virgin Atlantic flights I took in 2000 for work where I flew Upper Class. When light begins to come through the windows, cover my eyes.

Use earplugs if somewhere loud or unfamiliar.

Take an Ativan before bed.

If none of that works, getting up and reading the dullest books I can imagine (Vest Pocket CEO did the trick in the past) puts me back to sleep.

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QotD: Beam Me Up

If you could make a magic wish for a futuristic gadget or high-tech innovation, what would your item do? 
Submitted by Red Pen.

Ironic that this question came the day of my Smart Materials class, taught by the terrific Michelle Addington— I even mentioned the Vox QOTD there. We were asked to bring to class examples of the following in an immersion exercise:

1. an example of a smart material or product used in a ubiquitous “architectural” setting

2. an example that illustrates your own image of an” intelligent” environment

3. a material or product that intrigues or delights you regardless of its application

Very cool to see what people brought in… for me, my #1 was Cedric Price's Generator, the subject of my thesis, and Not So White Walls by Interaction-Ivrea student Dario Buzzini. I didn't need to bring that one up, though, because the professor did! Very cool to see work I know so well in a totally different context.

For the ideal intelligent environment, I brought in a picture of the Sensorama to indicate what I don't think is intelligent — it's not an environment you peer into and experience, but rather should be all around you. I likened it to a really good kitchen. Maybe it doesn't look different at all; it just feels better. Like cashmere. Only not on your pots and pans.

Speaking of which, for #3, I brought in a ball of yarn that my stepsister Darci gave me (and I haven't fully knit up). It's fuzzy and forest green, immensely soft. It's the wonder of acrylic, not the stuff from the 60s and 70s, but a whole industry of fantastic acrylic available now. I also tossed out a hat I made not of acrylic but of cashmerino (it is what it sounds like): an intense Turkish pattern in light blue and chocolate brown with three corners. I'd love to find ways to knit or weave smart materials into something more than just a surface application. And I'm very keen to see Sheila Kennedy's textile pieces that do this.

I'm very excited about this class. Since my thesis is about responsiveness in architecture at an earlier moment in time, I'm keen for current examples. Moreover, one of my goals in keeping a foot in interaction design and another in architecture is to bridge fields in a personal manner, to work in both fields. This will be a way to do so.


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