weeknote 12

Finally another weeknote…

First, I finished my dissertation proposal. If you’re interested in reading it, you can find it here. They are tricky beasts, proposals are — they are arguments for something you have yet to write and research. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, every time I’d sit down to write the proposal, I’d start trying to write the whole dissertation in miniature. Finally, though, it came together (as noted, thanks to Ms. Vertesi’s help).

I presented and defended the proposal before my committee– Christine Boyer, Ed Eigen, and Axel Kilian — and another professor I’ve worked closely with over the last several years, Spyros Papapetros. Also in the room: 10 or so students from my PhD program, two from art history, and another professor in the architecture school, Miles Ritter, who shares my love for technology. The critique was really solid. I know what the holes are in the proposal and was happy that the committee and other audience members found them all.

Critique is an excellent thing. It’s scary, yes, but it’s an honor to have good people engage with your work in an intense manner. I learn so much from the dialogue about it, whether in a defense (such as with my general exams or as in Thursday’s presentation of the proposal), or in conversations with the people in and around my PhD program. It’s also been important to learn how not to be defensive in a critical situation.

Some of the questions and suggested approaches that came out of it: looking closely at the rhetoric that Nicholas Negroponte, Cedric Price & Christopher Alexander used; considering a number of figures around MIT & the Media Lab; looking at the influence of Noam Chomsky and linguistics; probing the difference between computation and the computer and how that affects architectural practice.

Wow. I guess I’ve been busy. Also in the last week or so, I:

  • Spoke at the Network Architecture Lab at Columbia University on a panel discussion about Infrastructure — it was part of the Networked Publics lecture series
  • Wrote a piece for the catalogue of the  HABITAR exhibition Laboral in Spain on the 1970 Software exhibition, 1840s telegraphy and the annihilation of space and time through distributed intelligence
  • Worked with a friend who graduated from Ivrea on the copy for her company’s product concepts
  • Spoke in the lecture series at the University of Chicago in the History of Science department, thanks to a kind invitation from department chair Adrian Johns. (My subject: Poste Pneumatique.) Okay, so that was three weeks ago. Afterwards I was in LA for a few days to visit my boyfriend.

What’s ahead? My brother gets married on Grand Cayman Island next weekend: a week from today, I will be scuba diving with sting rays. (How I love diving! And I never really go.) Thereafter, a visit to San Francisco for the first time in a painfully long time to attend the Institute for the Future Tech Horizons conference, plus a few days in LA.

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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Vacation’s over

Parked the tractor!
Chula waits patiently
Me and Enrique at sunset
New year's eve sparklers

I'm packing up to leave Minneapolis and head back to New Haven for the start of my last semester of my master's degree. But *these* pictures are from the Texas leg of the trip.

I spent five days with Enrique's terrific family in San Antonio and on their ranch in Realitos, about 65 miles from the Mexican border. Exciting events included learning to drive a tractor, going to Cabela's (I have more pix to post from that itself), petting doggies (that's Chula, but there's also Chumina and Diego), playing with a fierce tiny baby kitty named Brisket, petting KC, the big black cat who likes hanging out under the Christmas tree. Fran, Enrique, Mr. and Mrs. Ramirez and I shot off fireworks on New Year's Eve. And I ate incredibly well. The Ramirez house is a vibrant and comfortable place. It was great to visit.

Then I came back to spend a long weekend with my family. It is wonderful to have these long breaks. I used to only see my family for a few days at a time. Now, I've been here for almost two weeks. I got to have beers with my brother Andy twice, go skiing with my nephews and Dad, play with Maddie, stay up late with my brother Ben, have multiple dinners with my Dad and Carol in North Oaks, where they live, and at my Mom's house with Chuck, my stepdad and outstanding cool. I even saw Darci, my stepsister, and her husband John a few times.

Managed to have a grade school class reunion… I will post something separate on that. Finished up a few freelance projects and an article for SXSWorld. Played The Sims 2 (with the Pet Expansion pack, my Christmas present from Enrique)
and a little World of Warcraft. Saw my best friend from high school, Melissa, and took
her out for something that wasn't hot dogs and Icees at Target.

The year will get going with a bang. We're putting on a colloquium and our second speaker is Paul Miller, aka DJ Spooky (That Subliminal Kid). Our speaker lineup looks terrific and I'll write more as it gets official. We're putting on a symposium in late March. And then there's the issue of my thesis, which must be complete in April. If I can write 10 good pages a week, I should be able to do it. We only take one class this semester, a gigantic relief. There is so much to do.

Okay, time to head to the airport. Three hour layover at O'Hare, heavy rain in Connecticut. I don't want to jinx it, but I have to wonder whether I'll make it all the way there tonight…

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Andy and Carrie, my brother and new sister-in-law: married!

November is almost done. I’m almost 35. Ugh. Here are a few posts about what’s been up.

First, on November 4, 2006, my brother Andy married his longtime girlfriend Carrie. Andy and Carrie are the parents of Jack (almost 7) and Maddie, aka Mamie (age 2) and have been together for close to nine years. It was a wonderful, touching ceremony. Everybody looked great and had a great time. The ceremony was in St. Paul, Minnesota, at the Fort Snelling Chapel. Enrique came with me and has now officially met almost my entire family.


On either side of that trip to Minneapolis, Enrique and I visited PhD programs. If it’s not been clear already, that’s what I hope comes next: starting a PhD program in architecture in the fall. Right before Halloween, we went to Cambridge to visit MIT and Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Right after my brother’s wedding, we attended the Princeton Open House (and got to see our friends Joy and Sara, who graduated from our program in May 2006).

I’ll talk more in the next post about what I’ve been doing the last two weeks: research at the Centre for Canadian Architecture in Montreal. It may have to wait, though: we’re in downtown Montreal as I write this and we’re about to hop in the car to drive back to New Haven for Thanksgiving.