Friday, December 31, 2010

new years' thoughts, I guess

Though not really related to the new year.

This site, which I cannot remember how I found, is pretty cool. Furniture!

I got a Nook for Christmas. Fffffffffffffubbbtth. This is the sound of the Nook sucking out my brains. It is AWESOME.

I want this book! Sadly, it is not on the Nook. And I refuse to pay $65 for a doorstopper, though it might be a doorstopper of epic design coolness. (For another peep inside the fun, here.)

What is up with this book, exactly? It looks cool. . . sorta. . . not sure.

In other news! I have been reading Tiger Beatdown for a while. It is a good blog! It is thoughtful! Funny! I think that Sadie/Sara Doyle is probably a genuinely nice person, and probably someone who would be great to be friends with! I have been watching the #mooreandme debacle (debacle because of the trolls, mainly) unfold from a distance from the beginning about two weeks ago. . . and it makes me so sad. Not because it isn't a good protest, but just that it takes so much effort and misery on the part of a few people just for a basic concession that rape allegations, even when against an Important Person! deserve to be taken seriously. Ugh. I get freaked out by one mean comment on the internet, so I can't imagine what it would be like to be inundated with demands that you, personally, go die (among other horrible things.) So I feel really bad that she basically had to make a giant target/punching bag out of herself to make a point.

In final news, the MIT admissions department does not believe that my recommendation letters have been submitted, EVEN THOUGH THEY HAVE. Ugh. I am also trying to write some kind of coherent mess about how the Royal College of Art should really let me study Design Engineering there because, uh, I like international collaboration! Also I like technology and design TOGETHER. Yeah, I'm obviously still working.

In REALLY SERIOUSLY FINAL NEWS, there was a lot of crap under my keys that I dug out this morning.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

MIT app submitted

Through poor planning, I am uncertain if my transcript and/or GRE scores are going to be received in time. (Though seriously, Student Services, if you felt like being helpful all you would have to do is walk two floors up with my transcript.)

Promise to self: I shall NOT repeat this pattern for the next four applications.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

things I have more or less accomplished

1. Write a purpose statement for MIT explaining how I intend to research intersections between daylighting, historic restoration, health, and energy savings;
2. Fix the plan on my quarry project page (i.e. make the plan of what I added lighter and easier to see);
3. FINALLY finish the photomontage for the final 4.114 project that I have been working on for the last week (:P);
4. Finish updating the sections of the 4.114 hanging house project so they are legible.
5. Do what needs to be done to get a clean plan exported from my 4.112 Sketchup model (i.e. download Sketchup Pro for an 8-hour trial and use its superior exporting capabilities to bring plans/sections into Illustrator and AutoCAD -- urgh);
6. Re-scan my 4.113 final project plans, the files of which have mysteriously disappeared;
7. Edit the final 4.440 project poster text down to something that will fit on my page;
8. Write clever (ha!) blurbs for the projects that don't have them;
9. Contemplate upon some way that I can parse/showcase the boutique furniture project designs into something coherent;
10. Contemplate upon a way to make my research figures pretty.

#5 is done because I decided my portfolio is too long and unwieldy and has too many mediocre projects in it.

It still kind of makes me want to scream when I look at it.


Featured on design-milk a few days ago: YKH House.


(Though not on this project, alas.)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

continuing application struggles

I wish I had done a Christmas countdown calendar on my blog. . . it would be fun. I also wish I could do one of those "gift guides," but I'm crappy at that kind of stuff, and besides I'm not buying anyone anything, I'm just baking stuff.

Perhaps I shall count down the last. . . 12 days to Christmas.

In any case, things I really, really need to get done today (plus a bunch of things I need to get done, but maybe not EXACTLY TODAY):

Saturday, December 11, 2010

portfolio fun while listening to bill engvall

I wonder about myself that I enjoy his humor so much.

Anyway, here are the few portfolio pages that are completely done (funnily enough, three of the four pages are not actual serious projects. and the one that is a serious project is not a big one. :P) I actually have 11 more pages in various stages of done-ness. Weird.

First: page of drawings/art.
Second: The quarry project (I see some issues right now to be fixed, sigh.)
Third: Pottery stuff. Does this belong in my portfolio? Maybe not. We'll see.
Fourth: page of adventures/travel.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

grad apps

They continue apace. I may actually have a portfolio to post one of these days.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

so I suck at blogging right now

as well as other things, like finishing my portfolio and getting to work at 1:30 instead of 1:45.

However, I have managed to spend loads of time on the internet (funny that), so here are my finds of late:

Awesome Scottish first names. (Fear me, O hypothetical children of mine.)

Wonderful, funny, beautiful food blog.

Christmas present for Mom.

This article is okay, but the link inside of it (which I can't get to work right now) to toddler altruism research videos is AWESOME.

This dog is the bomb, in all the positive figurative meanings of that phrase. Seriously.

The Bible. In over 50 languages. Fun!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

important revelation of the day

Baby leopards have small spots.

I wonder if they're like Dalmatians and are born without them.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


I return to the U.S.

It's been fun, Spain. I'll come back.

Friday, October 1, 2010

in sum

During this trip (assuming my flight to Venice goes well), I have successfully visited Toledo, Salamanca, Paris, Granada, Segovia, Barcelona, (obviously) Madrid, and Venice. I think I can comfortably say that I have "been to Europe," or "been to Spain," at the very least. (Though I wish I could have visited Cordoba, Seville, Valencia, Pamplona, the Camino de Santiago. . . as in Japan, I take those things unfinished as insurance that I will have to come back.)

I feel . . . um. . . cultured? Ha. I feel delighted. It was a good summer. I'm happy to go home, but not in the way I was last summer, when I felt like I was popping out of a pressure cooker.

And I really love traveling. I suppose that seems silly to say, but often I wonder how much I really like certain things -- art museums, Shakespeare, long books of literature, fashion -- and how much I like the idea of liking what cultured people like. And while I won't deny there's an element of that striving-for-elegance quality fueling my interests, I also am becoming more and more sure of my own preferences. For instance -- gazpacho? I tried it. It's palatable but not my favorite. Spanish tortilla? Lead me to the feed trough (provided that I don't overcook it so the edges are rubbery. :P) Going out to eat late at night? I just feel exhausted the next day. Getting up early for sightseeing? Yes, I can commune with the pigeons and the elderly people buying bread.

Every so often when traveling a little nagging voice would pop up in my ear, muttering, "YOU'RE DOING THIS WRONG," when I bought lunch from a grocery store instead of sitting in a cafe or walked instead of taking the metro (which, given the price of the metro, invariably meant that I was buying a bottle of Diet Coke for every metro ride I didn't take) or went to the mainstream big-deal tourist attractions instead of the niche out-of-the-way museums. Or vice versa. Or asking why I chose to go to these cities and not these cities. Often the little voice would question my traveling, muttering about lazy Americans in jeans and Birkenstocks or jeans and tennis shoes. Couldn't I at least wear earrings? I could put my money belt under a skirt. This little voice kept insisting there was more to going to Europe than just transplanting American dorkiness on different soil -- I should try, on some level, to be European (or Spanish, rather), to live/eat/dress in the same way that people here have accustomed themselves to do.

And that, I really haven't done. Is that bad? Well, maybe. Maybe not.

On a totally unrelated note, after watching the Hellboy movies I found the Hellboy/B.P.R.D. comics online. I read them and I LOVE them. The character development is sadly a little lacking, but the plots are fantastical and totally engrossing.

Baby playing with newspaper!

How much do you want to bet

that this dog has food allergies?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

new word!

Learned in Barcelona. Nuez is walnut. In case you need to get nut-filled ice cream.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

a happy or two

Book art I can appreciate. Maybe I will do this someday with the thousands o' books I plan on having.

Help from grandad. Side note: I love this website in general.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


There are TWO sequels to Into the Land of the Unicorns that I DID NOT KNOW ABOUT. HOLY CRAP.

Backstory, for those who do not understand how important this is: When I was 7 years old, I read Into the Land of the Unicorns by Bruce Coville and was totally enamored of it. I thought it was dead spectacular. I thought it was so dead spectacular, in fact, that I drew illustrations for it, wrote a letter to Bruce Coville, and mailed them off to him. (Side note: I remember those illustrations and they were. . . by a seven-year-old. Really obviously by a seven-year-old. Though I did carefully draw all the scales on the dragon with my markers. Even then I was obsessed with detail. [Maybe that was impressive?] I was also convinced that the unicorns had blue manes and tales, which I can't explain.)

Here's the thing: He wrote me back. The one and only author I have ever written to wrote me a personalized letter back thanking me for my illustrations and telling me more about his book. The letter was also not patronizing -- i.e. I recall finding it later and re-reading it and still being impressed. This response did not shake my utter love of the book (obviously) and I devoured every other book of his I could find with equal abandon. The second book, Song of the Wanderer, didn't come out until I was in high school, and I was delighted to find that it was quite as excellent as the first (and longer, which is a bonus in a good book.)

Sadly, I'm not sure that letter survived the flood. But it is a nice memory, and I can always get another copy of the book.

some other things + cold enough

to wear a scarf, so I have broken out the gorgeous pashmina that Barb gave me last Christmas. Of my dozen scarves (and the five or so I brought with me -- ha, the joke's on me :P) it's tied with the orange-gold-cream-pink scarf I bought at Maya on Newbury Street for the position of my favorite, though its weight makes it a slightly more functional garment. (Somewhere in the folds of this scarf is my Fenway House button, but I can't find it, which should tell you how voluminous it is.) (Though not quite this voluminous.)

The other things?

1. I have decided that I am a competent traveler.

For some of you, to read this may seem silly, but it feels very odd to me to declare myself competent in almost anything. Except, I don't know, baking cookies or something else equally non-threatening. Who's going to argue with me about that? Especially if they might get some cookies.

But really -- I think I'm competent. It involves some advance preparation; I'm not a spur-of-the-moment person. But I don't feel particularly bad about that. I do what I need to in order to feel comfortable. I am a "calculated risk" person. I feel like that's no bad thing.

I decided this after contemplating upon this summer, but also last summer. I think I have finally "gotten over" the stress that is flying. (Admittedly, I say this with some caution, since a 16-hour+ lots-o-checked-luggage intercontinental flight marathon is in my near future.) It doesn't freak me out to pack a bag one night, take the taxi/subway to the airport the next morning, spend the following day navigating a new (sometimes large) city, sleep in an unknown bed (usually in a room with other people, also sleeping in their own unknown beds), spend another day navigating, take a different subway back to the airport, and fly back. I am good with directions (somehow this is odd to type; I think that the general knowledge is so inundated with the idea that women must be spatially helpless and directionally challenged than it seems bizarre for me, a woman, to claim competence in this area), in that I can read and remember a map, and once I have walked a route, I generally remember it forever after. Sure, I spent 20 minutes being lost here and there, but never so much that I can't right myself (or at the very least backtrack.) I can also usually get a sense of relative directions fairly quickly (maybe in a weekend, maybe longer than that) -- a general sort of, "Well, if I walk in this direction I will run into this landmark; if I walk in this direction I will run into this landmark; the thing I want is sort of in this direction." I don't think the fact that I can't reliably say anything like, "We need to go NORTH" rather than "We need to go THIS WAY" makes me less competent.

2. Just so I don't forget -- an industrial design blog and design boom competitions.

3. This is interesting. Sort of. Primarily I like it for giving me this quote, ‘Love is the extremely difficult realisation that something other than oneself is real.’

4. At some point in the near future I want to put my favorite moments from Coraline, as it was a very pretty movie, and possibly from the Hellboy movies as well.

a good photo

From the Muslim Pride Parade in New York.

Source: Jezebel.

Monday, September 27, 2010


Posting these here too. . . they looked pretty awful on Facebook. Admittedly, my photography last night at 1:30 AM probably left something to be desired.
Attic of La Pedrera.

La Sagrada Familia observed from a bench. . .

Plaça Rei, watching them set up for Sunday's festival whilst waiting for the city history museum to open. Done while listening to a sound check done on bagpipes.

Part of the city history museum. Smaller shrine within the Palace Chapel built in the early 1300s.

Chapel at large.
Fun Dali drawing at the CaixForum.

can we please declare a moratorium

on the use of the metaphor "cute = edible" for babies? Please, for the love of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, STOP SAYING crap like, "I could just EAT HIM UP" when referring to a chubby baby, "All the better to nibble on," when referring to babies' legs, or any of that gross business. It's worse than dead baby jokes, because those are supposed to be creepy.


wrote this last night, but the internet was angry

Got back from Barcelona about an hour ago. It was good.

Random thoughts:

1. At the beginning of the summer, when I started reading feminist blogs, I came across a lot of articles about being catcalled, hit on, or otherwise treated aggressively by men in public spaces. I remember reading those articles and feeling -- I don't know -- puzzled -- even wistful -- because I had no experience with that sort of event. I guess that I hit an optimum crux in the U.S. at the ideal point of "lives in the right sort of town" and "average-looking enough." Now, thanks to Granada, (a little bit) Madrid and Paris, and especially Barcelona, I can relate. And I can now understand why this type of behavior pisses most women the hell off. Maybe there exist men who yell at you on the street who are actually trying to pay you a compliment. Maybe. These mythical beings have not yet been located. The majority, regardless of what words they actually use, are saying, "I see that you are woman, I see that you are smaller than me, and I want you to know that and be scared." It has fuck-all to do with how you look -- Spain is filled with gorgeous women, and I'm sure not one of them. It has everything to do with who men think they can get away with intimidating.

Moral of this story: Not that many men-type people read this blog, but do not ever catcall a woman and expect her to be flattered. If you don't realize you just made a veiled threat, you're a moron. If you don't care, you're a monster. Either way, you are shit and I want nothing to do with you.

(Side note: I become really unreasonably angry when someone approaches me -- particularly a young man -- with a clear intent to take advantage of me in some way -- pickpocket, scam, whatever. I haven't quite gotten a reign on this yet.)

2. I don't draw like an architect. I sketched for a cumulative 3-4 hours on this trip mostly inside museums. It was fun and somewhat less stressful than trying to navigate the streets of Barcelona (or any city where pulling out a map or looking lost and confused makes you a big fat target.) I even broke out the measure-proportions-with-the-pen trick for increased accuracy. For me, these drawings were pretty good. But I've seen how "real architects" draw (and artists/artisans that "real architects" adore) and what I do isn't it. I draw in pen because I draw for myself, and I want the drawing to last. Architects seem overjoyed by the fuzziness a pencil brings to a page. I tend to get wrapped up in details; architects care about overall form. I use feathery, piece-y lines to make my way around an object; architects use stronger contours. (That was made worse this trip by the fact that my pens were running out of ink.) I can't draw a damn line straight because my hands shake. I also press really hard on the pen, whereas most architects have a light touch. (I generalize, of course.) My drawings are -- what would be a good word? -- coarse. Not bad, per se, but coarse. I feel to a certain extent that I hid behind some natural talent (not a lot -- I've encountered people who are drawing savants before) during college, such that I never really developed my skills past mediocre.

To some extent, this is irrelevant -- I'm going to keep practicing drawing in any case. It just makes me feel . . . grim. Sketchbooks chock full of spur-of-the-moment vignettes of my travels that capture the "spirit of a place" are not in my near future. Sketchbooks with a few pages of heavily labored-over drawings are a fact of the present. . .

3. I'm starting to hate parks, such as Montjuic (park on the hill in Barcelona.) They're like game reserves for predators who hunt people. (I didn't have a bad experience in Montjuic; the lack of visibility on the streets that cut through just freaked me out.)

4. The most famous buildings in Barcelona (at least, based on an MIT architecture education) were both kind of "meh" for me -- Sagrada Familia and the Pavilion by Mies van der Rohe. Sure, I liked them (would have liked the latter more if it had been open), but they didn't fill me with glee. I liked la Pedrera, an apartment building (hah! how spectacularly inelegant that sounds compared to the reality) designed by Gaudi, and the Museum of the City and its excavated Roman ruins the best. Oh! The roof of la Pedrera! In spite of all the chain link to keep us from falling to our deaths, it was wondrous.

5. Unexpectedly I felt less jumpy on the winding streets of the Ciutat Vella, the medieval portion of Barcelona, than on the straight and wide avenues of L'Eixample, the 19th century development, though my guidebook assured me it should be the other way around in terms of where bags are usually snatched. I haven't quite figured this out yet, but I think it has to do with the number of friendly-looking people around -- there were a lot of pairs of men in L'Eixample (who set off the "POTENTIAL MUGGERS" alarm in my sad little brain), but way more young women, families with small children, and elderly people in the Ciutat Vella.


7. I hate frosted flakes. They mixed them in with my corn flakes this morning, though it was complimentary so I probably shouldn't complain.

8. I LOVE DONER KEBAB. I had two from the same place. They were 3.50 euros apiece. Each one was a delicious pocket of toasted sesame pita bread stuffed with diced tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, lettuce, cabbage, roast chicken, and yogurt sauce. Words do not describe how tasty this was.

9. Catalan pronunciation makes me indignant for some reason. This makes no sense, as English has possibly the worst spelling-to-pronunciation relationship ever. However, the straightforward pronunciation of Castilian (Spanish) doubtless set me up for a disappointment. Batllo = pronounced By-oh. Oy.

10. I bought what I think is a bracelet at the cathedral. It was next to the rosaries, which I know you're not supposed to wear as necklaces, but this, though it has a repeating pattern of crosses and perchance is supposed to be used as a modified rosary, has an elastic band, which makes me think it is a bracelet. Maybe.

11. They were singing the mass when I visited the cathedral. They didn't kick out the tourists (like in Sacre Coeur in Paris) but they did have the front of the cathedral roped off (not like Sacre Coeur) so we had less opportunity to be annoying. Also they had television screens broadcasting the priest behind the choir so the back of the cathedral could watch the mass too, which I thought was very clever.

12. There were three blonde college-age American guys sitting next to me on the train to the airport, two of whom ended up on the same flight as me back to Madrid. I eavesdropped unashamedly on their conversation and found out they went to school in St. Louis. They actually mentioned Creighton whilst chatting. It felt weirdly nice to sit and listen to Midwestern English for a bit.

Friday, September 24, 2010

my favorite internet meme

Okay, not my favorite. But one of my favorites!

I love "Bunway Airlines," which shows up with some frequency on I Can Has Cheezburger. It brings back fond memories of playing with stuffed animals with Leslie and Erin at Grandma Dyer's -- Friar Bill the Canadian goose Beanie Baby, proprietor of Friar Bill Airlines, and Private Bryan, a rabbit in overalls with bendy ears that could be styled in thousands of ways.

a note to myself

Probably it's noticeable that I use this blog as much to keep notes for myself when I find something cool as a broadcasting device.

So, a note to myself: OK Go remains cool, several years after the infamous treadmill video. More evidence of coolness.

On the theme of videos. I watched this one without sound. At first I thought the guy was wearing a tan colored trench coat; when the camera zoomed in more I could identify his uniform and felt kind of weepy.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

holy shit

I will be home, barring flight delays and other such catastrophes, in 16 days.


I've already started to wear down the tips of the new felt-tip pens I bought. . . not even at the beginning of the summer. I think I got them in late July.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

things I feel guilty about

1. In all the time I have been living in Madrid, I have taken out the communal trash in my apartment once. It always seems like someone does it before I ever think of doing it -- showing that my tolerance for filth is much higher than average.

In my defense, I have bought all of the toilet paper for the last three months, the hand soap, and the dish soap. This comes out to a total investment of. . . er. . . 15 euros on my part. I'm not sure if I am making my case better or worse.

2. Despite the fact that they are a preppy, shallow, overpriced company, that does not make clothes for people shaped like me, I love J. Crew. I love their stylists. I love a lot of their products. I insist to myself that I'm just "studying their catalog so I can find things like these elsewhere for less," but will I actually do that? No. Probably not. But I still enjoy flipping through.

I love these shoes. These shoes + skirt + gray opaque tights = yes.

A selection of the "fall looks" from the website. What do I like? Skillful use of neutrals. Heels with socks. Structured jackets -- LOTS of them. Gray opaque tights. Textured skirts. Sparkles in an otherwise very plain ensemble. Skinny jeans that I imagine I could wear without looking like . . .unnnh maybe the Venus of Willendorf.

More fall looks. . . I also really, really like their menswear section. The two hats and bracelet are from the men's category. I also love the middle dress.

less psycho thoughts on Barcelona

O Internet, how excellent you are! Yesterday I started researching the upcoming jaunt to Barcelona (unfortunately a surfeit of information probably led to yesterday's outburst of paranoia); this morning I read most of the section in my Lonely Planet (skipping the bits that sounded boring and the beach stuff -- it's too damn cold to go to the beach. Also, what on earth would I do with my stuff while I was there?)

(My big upturn in mood today may have to do with the fact that I felt really overwhelmed by all the not-so-great possibilities when I got home from work yesterday and so went to bed at 8:30 PM. Since I woke up at 6:30, that makes. . . uh. . . ten hours of sleep. Yes, I am refreshed. Also I checked and found that a locker-with-lock is INCLUDED in my hostel in Barcelona, which also makes me more optimistic.)

Wikitravel has the basics on Barcelona, including some on the different districts, such as Ciutat Vella (Ciudad Vieja, OR Old City argh I will never get a hold on one language before another one sneaks up and bites me), the medieval quarter, and the 19th century development L'Eixample. (Catalan is somewhere between French, Italian, and Spanish, as Catalonia is sort of equidistant between all there. I'm going to guess it has more Spanish loanwords than loanwords from the other two, just because it's been dominated by Spanish-speaking governments for 200 years or so.)

The best of the safety information I found is this. I'm always a little worried about being mugged (but I can avoid deserted areas), and I'm still specifically worried about having the strap on my bag cut, the bottom slashed, or my pocket slashed (not the least because I personally doubt that someone could slash the pocket on my close-fitting jeans without slashing me too. I'm not sure whether this means it's less likely to happen or that I should be glad I've had a tetanus shot recently.) But the rest of the precautions on this list are all things I do anyway or things that won't be super difficult to do -- like keeping an extra copy of my passport and remembering to go inside a store or cafe before checking my maps. (Apparently "undercover police" is a common scam, so I looked up what the Barcelona police actually wear -- they look just about like Madrid police.) (Moral of story, in all of the scam/distraction thievery explanations: There is usually not a good reason for someone you don't know to initiate contact with you.)

Also in a preparatory mindset, I think I will go ahead and buy the Barcelona Card. The convenience of included transportation is nice, and I see at least four or five attractions included on the list that I want to visit.

I've determined what sorts of transportation are available from the airport (barring construction like in Paris :P, but then they had replacement shuttle buses), though I still have to check out a map of said airport a little more carefully (I'm okay familiar with the Madrid airport by now, but not so much with others. Ugh Charles de Gaulle and Heathrow. Ugh ugh ugh.) There are a lot of good maps online, including some of the Barcelona metro, though when it's all said and done once I'm somewhat oriented Google Maps is still about the best thing ever.

On a more pleasant note, I'm also organizing what attractions I expect to be able to see. La Pedrera, also known as Casa Mila, by Gaudi. (I accidentally included Casa Amattler on the list of Gaudi-designed houses, but it's actually by someone else.) Casa Batllo, as aforementioned. Museum of the City, which includes some Roman ruins. The reconstruction of the Barcelona Pavilion (on the edge of the big park Montjuic or "Jewish Mountain." Apparently people think there used to be a Jewish cemetery there?) And maybe, perchance, if I have time, a vintage store. Sadly, I would like to go to Montserrat and the Dali museum, but I don't think I will have time.

Total aside: Why does it seem like I'm the only touristy person I know who goes to the grocery store for food? Guidebooks talk about cheap places to eat, but they almost never tell you to just go to the grocery store and buy a pastry or a sandwich. I do not understand this.

Other total aside: Someone told me I should eat doner kebab while in Barcelona. I am really looking forward to this, actually. The most delicious thing I ate in Granada was from a kebab place -- a big pita full of yogurt, chicken, and random veggies. Mmmmmmm yummy. Also it was 5 euros for that and a drink and some (admittedly mediocre) fries, so pretty cheap. (It makes me sad that the tastiest ice cream I have had in Europe so far was from the Haagen-Dazs (sp?) down the street from where I work.)

Monday, September 20, 2010

thoughts on Barcelona

I'm a bit worried about Barcelona, as it is the "pickpocketing capital of Europe." (I'm not actually quoting that, I just read some articles and made up the name.) Thus follows my anxious mutterings and ideas about this city. It is not necessarily logical stuff, though there may be the occasional logical thoughts thrown in there for variety.

Sadly certain measures are not available to me; I am not, for instance, going to buy a pickpocket proof bag with hidden metal mesh in the strap and fabric. My canvas bag will have to do.

Madrid: Yes, I Love Thee

Struggling to think of blog post titles, obviously.

I have figured out a route -- a nice, well-populated, spacious, sunny route, for walking and bouncing. Shown above. It is about 5 miles (4.9-5, depending on detours), and I walked it three times this weekend.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I was thinking to myself

jeez, I have a headache. What is up with that? I slept plenty.

And then I remembered. . . I've been drinking caffeinated pop. FUCK I'm addicted again.

Friday, September 17, 2010

pretty sure

that last entry was actually an angry rant aimed at Eat Pray Love. Sorry all.

so this is pretty much my nightmare

(and rant city is a-comin' in) Nightmare central.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

am keeping up

with New York Fashion Week. . . sort of.

Vera Wang. I like #s 5, 12, 13, and 42. Overall the vibe is a bit too femme and swishy for me, but the experimentation with textures is eye-catching.

this is what I'm doing

More or less. (I just typed "more of less," and I think it was a Freudian slip.)

All of these take direct inspiration from other pieces that I've found on the internet. . .

I spend a lot of time cursing AutoCAD and 3DS Max.

oh, the awesome

So cute!

I will admit that I am somewhat swayed by the fact that I think Juan Carlos I (current king of Spain, and I believe these two little girls' grandfather) is a pretty cool guy -- he played a really pivotal role in ushering in democracy after Franco.

a cursory google

informs me that I probably walked 18 miles or somewhat more over the weekend.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

also I have a theory

My theory is that you can grow to love any city if you spend the summer there. Given enough light and heat, any city becomes more beautiful. I say this because all of my city loves -- Boston, Tokyo, a fledgling crush on New York and Paris (and probably Madrid when I leave, we shall see) -- started in the summer.

I don't know if this is a latent evolutionary desire for warmth and ease of finding food that leads me to love this season, or just the natural impulse of someone who has spent seventeen years on the schedule that says summer is the time of really truly being, but most of my giddy memories are edged in light.

more good stuff + things I long for

Good stuff:

I remember reading about this and shuddering. I read somewhere else that mining is no longer considered the most dangerous occupation, but I still think it's a job sent directly from hell.

A model blog filled with . . . model-y stuff. You know, clothes and travel.

What the hell is this? I don't know, but it's kind of entertaining.

A blog, mainly about details and vintage things.

Here are my options at TU Delft. I'm leaning toward Architectural Engineering.

I need to get back with studying Japanese. (Well, and studying Spanish. Dammit, how is it that Elizabeth Gilbert was able to achieve fluency in four months?)

This makes me feel so confident. Barcelona is #1 on the list of places to get pickpocketed. On the up side, Madrid is #3 and Paris is #4, and for the most part I have been doing okay there.

Things I am longing for.

1. Driving myself on a highway with none too many people with country music on the radio.

2. Oyakodon at the 500 yen place.

3. Naoshima outdoor art.

4. The Christian Science Center plaza.

5. Family Mart [my favorite convenience store in Japan] pastries, noodles, and chicken.

6. Newbury Street.

7. The back alley behind Fenway.

8. The vet clinic, particularly the alley behind it.

9. An English-language public library.

10. Being able to put stuff on my walls.

11. B*Goods, the Shaws on Boylston, the Whole Foods behind Fenway.

12. Making the loop around the Fens, passing by the MFA, and thinking that I could go in any time I felt like it, really.

13. Baking. (Mom, we are going to have to do some negotiation about this when I get back.)

14. Cheese curds. (This one is all Mary Beth's fault.)

15. The Boylston Street Borders and H&M.

I can't really describe my desire for the people I love as a longing at this point. Maybe because I know I can call them up if I really need them. Sure, I crave physical contact like nobody's business, and face-to-face conversation where neither my partner nor I are scrambling for words. But when I miss a place, I can't just call up my favorite street on my cell phone and say, "Hey, how's it going? Can you give me some details about what it feels like to be where you are, just so I don't miss you too much?"

some random fun stuff

The DKNY show from this year's NY Fashion Week. I approve. I am a scarf aficionado.

From IOWA! The first soldier to receive a Medal of Honor non-posthumously since the Vietnam War.

This is a cool camera. Although I saw a better one in the boutique at the Pompidou Centre. . . sigh.

Amusing, if not particularly useful. Illustrated recipes!

Also, Eat Pray Love was totally a beach book: Pleasant, fun, and insubstantial.


want to blog about the Paris weekend, because it was beautiful and I felt like I was being filled up to the top of my skull with joy and hunger.

But I did so much, and saw so much, and had a million fragmented thoughts, so I really don't know when that's going to happen.

In the meantime ---

I am eager to be home, and eager to be away from home.

Things I want to accomplish before I leave Spain:

1. Go to at least one mass in Spanish.
2. Go to the student exchange night at J&J Books at least once.
3. Enjoy my trip to Barcelona. Do not spend too much, and do not worry too much.
4. Enjoy my trip to Venice. Ditto.
5. Finish my portfolio.
6. Put up all my photos.
7. Go to the Palacio Real and the Thyssen (that's not right, but it's an art museum and I know what I mean) Museum in Madrid.
8. Finish the books I have left: A Passage to India (I've got about 200 pages left), Middlemarch, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. (Is that all? There might be one more.)

I think I can handle that. I hope.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


are "pilas." not batterias.

in related news, dear convenience store worker, please don't make me feel stupid when there are approximately five other convenience stores within similar distance.

Friday, September 10, 2010

HA boarding passes secured

Avoiding the panicked evening run to the Internet cafe in Puerta del Sol. . .

Finding the way

Finally, I have submitted my second Threadless design:

Finding the way.

The timing is somewhat inconvenient, as I will be gone without internet access for the next three days and unable to beleaguer all and sundry to go vote on it. However, I shall hope for the best and ask those who are kindly inclined toward me to check on the Threadless website again tomorrow.

Thanks muchly. . .


When I get home, I want to institute a book-a-week policy. I.e.: I will read one book every week.

Why. . .? Because I love to read. Because I always need more knowledge. And, cynically, because nothing sets me apart from my peers other than how much effort I make to be interesting.

ugggggggggh scholarships

I need money.

You see, next year (September 2011) I had been planning to go to graduate school. And -- gasp -- I had been planning to do it in the UK (most preferably.)

The most conservative estimate of how much this is going to cost me is about $35,000 a year. It goes up from there.

I need money.

Thus, I have been hanging out in websites like this, this, this, this, this, and (God have mercy upon me) this.

Altogether, it makes me pretty nauseous. I had mysteriously decided somewhere along the way that my three extracurriculars (give or take) and 3.4 GPA were none too shabby. Where did I get that impression? I do not know. I don't think it's going to do me much good in this round of begging. . .

P.S. I'm insecure, so I'll note that this is my GPA in "real world" terms -- not the MIT 5-point scale.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

random happy links

Design Sponge City Guides. I am pleased.

The Madrid Guide is pretty interesting, though it kind of makes me glum that the Real Basilica de Francisco el Grande is listed as a 'beautiful neoclassical cathedral' and a tourist attraction; I was mugged in the garden that belongs to the Basilica. Meh. However, I found two places I want to visit from this guide: Cantaro, a ceramics shop, and the Círculo de Bellas Artes.

Next up for reading: Paris guide. Unfortunately I shan't be shopping much on this trip. . .

do you ever

read something absolutely hilarious at work and then cover your mouth and think about pinching your nose and then hope it just sounds like you're breathing really loud when you expel air really hard through your nose because you're laughing?


Hyperbole and a Half. Go read some old entries.

Also, Paris this weekend. O_O

Monday, September 6, 2010


why won't it work arrrrrgh.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

oh hemingway

I still want to read A Moveable Feast and For Whom the Bell Tolls. I just hope that he doesn't try to write any more cardboard female characters in either, and instead focuses on his strengths, like scenery and soldiers.

(So: A Farewell to Arms was interesting. Intriguing. Questionable.)

Also I went to Segovia and had a nice time, but then I came home after only about four hours because my right knee was shaking really hard from going up and down the tower in the Alcazar. Sigh.

Friday, September 3, 2010


does it count as being lonely if you only want specific people? I'm okay being alone -- I just miss some people. Case in point: I could probably use some conversation with someone physical. But, frankly, my desire to converse is far superseded by desire to sleep, which is why I haven't gone out after 8:00 PM any of the nights this week (and those excursions were to the grocery store.)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


well, a small one.

There are certain words that for some reason I cannot spell in American English.

1. Catalog. I always type catalogue. Always.

2. Plow. I always use plough.

3. Glamor. Glamour. . . just seems more normal.

I do not have issues with color, license, or any host of other words. . . but those ones throw me.


Linguistic food for thought.

It seems that rice is cheaper than pasta: one bag provides something like 10-12 servings for 70-80 cents, whereas one bag of pasta is 5-6 servings for 40-50 cents.

Monday, August 30, 2010

I just realized

that I have again abandoned my efforts at the Granada/Salamanca/Paris entries. Will try again! However, you should all know that I have made MIGHTY PROGRESS on my portfolio.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


I started to think vaguely about becoming a vegetarian. . .maybe a year ago? I'm not sure. I think I first had the thought in high school that while I didn't find eating meat to be by itself morally problematic, it would probably be better/more ethical for people who ate meat to kill the animals themselves -- if nothing else, I think it would cut down on waste. (Also probably would inspire a bunch people to become vegetarians.)

Junior year of college I met for the first time a vegetarian who had chosen that lifestyle not for ideas about animal rights, but instead because he was concerned about the loss of energy that meat production caused. In other words, cattle and pigs aren't 100% efficient in converting the grains they eat into meat for us to eat -- not even close. So, theoretically, if that grain went into feeding humans instead, a lot more people could have enough food. (I also read an article or two to the same effect.)

Fast forward to this year, when I started doing a lot of reading on various social issue/cause blogs. I came across one very frightening defense of abortion which included a line like, "In any case, the world is vastly overpopulated without enough food to support everyone, so. . . " So? So any way we can kill off a few more people is probably a good idea?

My brain short-circuited the two ideas together, and came up with: I should be vegetarian to support the pro-life movement. The less I consume, the more food there is available for non-aborted babies! Yay!

But, somehow (as always), my intentions did not match up to my actions, and although I stopped buying chicken earlier in the summer, I continued to purchase cans of tuna and sliced ham (for my green beans!) and so forth. . . (Side note. I'm going to guess the reason that tuna is so cheap compared to other meats is because no human effort has to go into raising them for munchies -- as opposed to us growing grain for cows, etc. However, tuna is not a non-problematic meat (ARRRRRRGH) because (so far as I know) overfishing is driving them not-so-gradually to extinction.)

However, I think my budget crunch may do what my social cause guilt may not: Switch my sources of protein to beans, milk, and eggs. Why? Well, let us compare chicken and beans.

  • costs 5-7 dollars for three servings
  • has to be cooked within a few days or it will go bad and kill me (or give me a tummyache)
  • has, according to the internet, 165 calories, 4 g of fat, and 31 g of protein per 100 g serving
  • given my preferences, the only way I cook chicken is in oil -- adding another expense and more fat

  • Beans:
  • costs 1-2 dollars for three servings
  • stays good indefinitely (canned OR dried)
  • has, according to the internet, 143 calories, 1 g of fat, and 9 g of protein per 100 g serving
  • I haven't figured out a way to cook beans in oil yet.

  • Note in particular item #1 on each list.

    And, in the unlikely case you are fussing about how much protein I eat, I just checked and I pretty much meet my daily requirement in wheat protein from pasta alone.

    Friday, August 27, 2010

    the guy list

    I have what I think are compelling reasons to think I will probably always be single.

    The idea of being single forever is, at least at this point in my life, not particularly intimidating, but more of an "aw, gee, that sucks" kind of thought. Like discovering that they discontinued my favorite flavor of yogurt, perhaps. (Well, maybe a little more profound than that.) The idea of settling for a guy who is in many or all ways "less than". . . strikes me as burning in a slow hell.

    I realized that I have actually developed a fairly long list of traits that a potential Mr. Gochenour ideally would have. And while some of the requirements may change, the probability of one guy meeting them seems slim.

    The point of all this is to make an excuse to write up the list of traits for said person that I had unconsciously been cataloging anyway. So, without further ado:

    horrible dream

    I dreamed that I had just moved into a new apartment with carpets when the neighbor's miniature gray poodle came in and puked on every available horizontal surface. All I could do was watch in horror.

    Thursday, August 26, 2010

    I smell like cigarette smoke

    and. . . I still think my Spanish is improving.

    Wednesday, August 25, 2010

    in which I foolishly comment on a blog post

    Because I thought I had something valuable to say.

    Maybe I did, and perhaps I didn't.

    But about 10 comments later, the conversation (which was related to feminism and casual sex) had devolved to: "You cannot hold X opinion (and conversely must hold Y opinion) or you are bigoted and harmful."

    X opinion is one that I largely share. Y opinion is valid but lacking, so far as I can see. I was very glad that someone not me got targeted for publicly voicing X opinion, which allowed me to be. . . well, somewhat amused that a liberal space would be so intolerant. I get that there are certain beliefs -- say, white supremacist ones -- that are not to be "tolerated" under any circumstances. But the issue was not such a clear-cut one.

    photoshop curves

    Another link: Color theory in photos. Even though I use Photoshop a lot (and have done some okay things with it, in my opinion) there is always more stuff that can be done with it. Color curves! I shall have to attempt editing some of my photos in this manner at some point. . . but I have far to many to make it a consistent practice. :P

    Another post on the awesomeness of messing with color curves in Photoshop.

    I think

    that I really like the poetry of Billy Collins.

    See, here.

    today's pasta glop brought to you by

    green beans, red peppers, carrots, onions, and garlic. I'm hoping the introduction of fiber will stretch my pasta farther. I'm not exactly sure whether it's super tasty, but edible will do for now.

    Sunday, August 22, 2010


    I don't think Mejorada del Campo is happening. I was too unproductive yesterday, and my portfolio is languishing in a state of horrible disrepair.

    Also, I am deciding whether I ought to shave my legs or not, based on four factors:

    1. The hair on my legs is kind of blonde, so it's hard to see, right? Probably no one will notice.
    2. But the hair near my ankles is darker. (WHY IS THIS.)
    3. Shaving one's legs is a stupid practice made up by razor companies to sell more razors. Boys don't do it so I shouldn't either.
    4. I actually find the hair on my legs kind of gross. Well, mainly just the hair on my ankles. Maybe I should just shave my ankles.

    This is what happens when I have time to think.

    Saturday, August 21, 2010

    New moleskin acquired. No Eat Pray Love in site; it's probably all for the better. Instead, I bought stamps. Postcards ho!

    things to do this weekend

    1. submit my second Threadless design (it's done, I'm just figuring out colors and placement and stuff. :P)
    2. submit a few things for
    3. visit Mejorada del Campo, if time and nerve allow
    4. purchase plane ticket to Venice (!!!?)
    5. buy a new Moleskin at Reina Sofia or Paisajes (multilingual bookstore and all-around good time) or whichever store I find one in first -- my other one is almost entirely full (!!!?)
    6. put up my pictures from Granada
    7. realized that I have yet to write detailed blog entries for ANY of the travel that happened the last three weekends -- Salamanca, Paris, or Granada. do something about this.
    8. maybe maybe maybe go to J&J's books for a used copy of Eat Pray Love? (I feel embarrassed that I want to read this book so much, but the similarities and disparities of the story to mine and other acquaintances' experience strike me most forcibly.)

    I would like to note that I bought a week's worth of groceries (by my estimation), including toilet paper (which is kind of expensive here?), for about $20. The downside of this is I did it by not buying cookies, fish sticks, or anything remotely exciting, except for a red pepper to make my inevitable pasta glop more flavorful. I may have to resort to eating cabbage as a side dish. . .there really aren't that many supercheap veggies available to bulk out/give interest to one's pasta.

    Ah! but I am not a martyr. I have budgeted to have a postre most working days (well, at least 3 of 5). Postre = dessert. I have realized that the amount of enjoyment that I get out of a cookie is far greater when I am munching on a few fresh lazos during lunch break at work -- next to the park, or even at my desk (where I was the last couple days working feverishly on t-shirt stuff), than that received from inhaling an entire slightly stale (but still tasty! oh yes, still tasty) package of lazos over the course of eight hours.

    Let us hope this budgetary diet does not fail miserably.

    (Also, I was unable to resist getting a Coke. But tomorrow! Maybe tomorrow I will resist.)

    Friday, August 20, 2010

    the most important food thought

    Today I finished off the 250 g of butter that I bought on July 2. That's right, my friends -- I, Sharon J. Gochenour, made slightly more than a half a pound of butter last for 49 days.

    This would be more impressive if I hadn't gone through a half-liter of olive oil in the same amount of time. . . .

    thoughts on food

    I think I am over my budget panic. I'm still going to try my best to be (more) frugal. At this point I've been spending about $32-$40 a week on groceries and snacks. I am going to attempt to reduce that to $15-25, primarily by buying less cookies and mini-croissants. Also by reducing my Diet Caffeine-Free Coke intake. I'm still weighing the benefits of beans vs. tuna as a cheap source of a protein. I'm also trying to decide what other veggies are as cheap and easy to stick in my lunch as frozen green beans.

    I remember this one lady who came to talk to my American History class in high school. Her presentation was, "Could you survive without your parents?" She asked us to budget how much food and rent cost and compare it to how much money we made in our jobs, if we had them. I think the point was to make us grateful to our parents. Or to encourage us to stay in school. One of those two. Actually I have no idea what the point was.

    But anyway, I seriously recall her recommending that we budget $100 a week for groceries. Her list for "recommended groceries" included stuff like frozen pizza and Doritos. At the time, I thought that was dumb. Now, I think it's dumber.

    Just a thought.

    So, due to the budget crunch that kind of snuck up on me (because I was taking a picture and listening to my iPod, ugh), I will NOT be packing my remaining weekends full. I have the planned trips to Barcelona and Paris (still), and I still hope to go to Cordoba (apparently if I get there before 10:00 AM, I can get into the great mosque for free!) But, it will probably be a one-day trip, and I'll pack a lunch. Other than that, I'm saving my money for my end-week.

    *crosses fingers, hopes for the best*


    My Threadless t-shirt design has been approved and can now be voted on! Please go and so so here.

    Thanks very much!

    Thursday, August 19, 2010

    unnnnnngh + the list


    I want to visit Mejorada del Campo, a town about 8 miles outside of Madrid, to see this. It sounds fascinating -- as well as potential source for a couple articles. I've got to get down to business on this freelance stuff.

    My problem? I can't figure out what kind of town it is. This may sound odd, but basically from previous internet research I have garnered that "fringe" Madrid neighborhoods (those outside the M30 roadway loop) tend to be tougher and less fun for a tourist to find herself in. This is clearly outside of central Madrid, but it might be far enough out that the above recommendation doesn't quite apply. The Google satellite picture shows lots of pictures of houses with swimming pools. That implies. . . a wealthy suburban development? Maybe? In any case I would be visiting in the middle of the day on Saturday or Sunday, so there should be people around. On the other hand, because it's super small, I would stick out painfully as a tourist (read: target.)

    Of course, with my current monetary situation, the cost of this proposed trip -- 4 euros 10 cents -- is about what I can afford.

    List composed while I was walking around Granada.

    Wednesday, August 18, 2010

    in my quest for financial solvency

    I have submitted my first (hopefully of many) t-shirt design to

    It is currently still "pending approval," but when that period has ceased, I shall post much notification with much glorious trumpeting and much less glorious begging and pleading to help me out.

    Monday, August 16, 2010

    trying to organize my brain which is skittering in ten thousand directions

    I have four (4!) unplanned weekends left in Spain. (As well as the weekend in Paris and the weekend in Barcelona. Phew.) Then, I have realistically 7 days at the end of my stay -- October 1-8. (I fly out out on the ninth.)

    So, what to do with these weekends?

    I have approximately a thousand ideas -- and am anxiously torn between seeing the most famous things possible -- the sorts of things that were in my history of architecture class -- and seeing some out-of-the-way things (I want to go see Don Quijote's windmills!), or unusual things, completely random things (oh boy! I want to go see the only monkeys native to Europe at Gibraltar!), or perhaps places that are cheap because they are close to Madrid (Segovia and Avila come to mind.)

    So, without further ado, what I am considering:

    1. A weekend trip to Sevilla and Cordoba. They are relatively close to one another; I would take the bus to one of them, spend the day there, take the bus to the next one, stay overnight, spend the day there, take the bus back to Madrid.

    2. Two days walking on the Santiago de Compostela trail. It's experiential! It's in northern Spain (where I haven't been yet!) It would a nice counterpart to the torturous climb up Mt. Fuji from last summer!

    3. Segovia. It's so close to Madrid. And there are those aqueducts. Also, it would be a day trip. I like day trips; they leave me less completely totally exhausted than all-weekend extravaganzas.

    4. Avila. Ditto on the closeness. Also, it's a UNESCO World Heritage site. Lots of Romanesque architecture. If I really wanted to see both of the above, they could potentially be combined into one weekend. . .

    5. Lisbon. (as in, Portugal.) Potential for meeting a friend there? Not sure how this will pan out.

    6. San Sebastian. Also in northern Spain (where I haven't been yet!). Supposed to be very pretty.

    7. Go to Barcelona again, by bus.

    #1 on this list is Cordoba. Everything else is squishy.

    Granada for starters

    I swear I am still working on Salamanca and Paris entries.

    Granada in short:

    La Alhambra is great. Pretty much every part of it is great -- gardens, fortresses, ruins, what have you. The Patio of the Lions is still under construction for restorations so that sucked.

    I visited the cave houses in the Sacromonte neighborhood (north Granada) and the Albaycin, the medieval Muslim neighborhood. I super neurotically watched for muggers (before taking out my camera, a map, or stopping to look at a posted document I did at least a 360 and sometimes a 720 degree turn, and whilst walking down the marked "nice pedestrian walk" street on my excellent Granada tourist map I all but spun in circles), who kindly did me the favor of not showing up. I did get harassed by a "palm reader," cat-called (I think because I had a sunburn? More likely the guy was just a dickhead. I realized that I am uncertain of how to say "go to hell" in Spanish,) and asked for money in the bus station, but other than that I took loads of pictures, had some good conversations, and ate ice cream.

    Friday, August 13, 2010

    sadness. :(

    This blog entry makes me so sad.

    or that could be that I'm super behind on work. who knows?

    Thursday, August 12, 2010

    ernest hemingway?

    Books to make interesting people talk to you on the subway.

    Now I want to read A Moveable Feast, even though I still have 200 pages left of A Farewell to Arms. I can't decide if I like Ernest Hemingway or not. I mean, if an author keeps you reading, even if you find some parts of their novel shallow or irritating, then that's saying something, right?

    important Spanish things

    1. Yesterday I saw six nuns. One in the morning and a gaggle of five in the afternoon.

    2. Empandilla = puff pastry or pie crust wrapped around beef or tuna with tomatoes, peppers, and onions. Not so good from the refrigerator section of the grocery store, but pretty tasty from the bakery.

    3. Spanish tortilla = omelette mainly consisting of potatoes and onions. Tastes like latkes. SOOOOOOOOOOOO GOOOOOOOOOOD.

    Wednesday, August 11, 2010

    yet another one of those articles

    Let me sum this article up for you:

    You don't earn the right to enjoy your life until age 35. Say good-bye to your friends and get ready to kiss some ass.

    ugh yeah

    I just barely managed to get my photos up on facebook, so I don't know when the next blog entry is coming.

    However, weird comment: I have started (well, actually this happened a while ago) to say "grathias" instead of "gracias" when I go to the grocery store/sandwich shop-bakery place. My accent is still kind of untenable, but I try to hide it here and there.

    (In case you didn't get that: In basically all the Spain-Spanish that I've heard, the "s"-ish sounds -- made by s, c, and z -- all sound like "th." Unlike what I was told in high school Spanish, it's not a thing they do in Barcelona, because they speak Catalan in Barcelona. Barcelona is just one word that you can hear it in. And "d" sounds like "th" -- entrada is "entratha.")

    I still can't make the real "j" sound, which is like the "ch" sound in German, generating somewhere in the back of the throat, or roll an r convincingly.

    Monday, August 9, 2010

    nothing like french to make you appreciate spanish.

    I am still working on my Salamanca and (more comprehensive) Paris entries. However, I would just like to say that while Paris is wondrous and awesome and kind of like New York in that I think you could stay continuously entertained for years, it:

    A) Is more expensive than Madrid. The Metro is 1.70 euros per ride instead of 1.00, and the train ride from the airport was 8.75 euros! compared to 2 in Madrid.
    B) Has a hideously foul airport (compared to Barajas, which is the nicest airport I have ever been in, bar none.)
    C) Has super long lines for various attractions that, while wonderful, are comparable to things in Salamanca or Madrid that do not have such long lines, and also cost somewhat less.
    D) An uneducated English-speaking traveler can sort of read signs in French by guesstimation but all speech sounds like a garble of extremely similar vowels that don't really show up in English at all. Why is Spanish so much easier to learn than French when modern English is the grandbaby of Old English and Old French????

    Moral of story: The movies are right, Paris is cool, but you should also go to Madrid.

    Random side note plucked from the middle of the Paris narrative: Saint-Chapelle is awesome. As far as actual "sites" that I saw (as opposed to just walking around a lot), that was my favorite.

    Tuesday, August 3, 2010


    One important question I have been asking myself:

    Are there more nuns per capita in Madrid, or have I just been noticing more because I expect there to be more nuns? (Or sisters, or whichever is the correct term for generally small elderly ladies who wander around in gray, white, brown, or black habits and wimple-y things and Sensible Shoes.) I see 8-10 a week, I think.

    Or maybe I just walk a nun-heavy route?

    Friday, July 30, 2010

    sometimes I am befuddled by my own cooking

    I just created a dish consisting of:

    -- onions
    -- ham
    -- olive oil
    -- green beans
    -- rosemary
    -- thyme
    -- black pepper
    -- "meat broth" (probably pork and vegetables)
    -- basil
    -- "tomate frito" (tomato sauce with garlic and sugar)
    -- tortellini (with cheese filling.)

    It's tasty. . .just. . . weird.

    spain is going to kill me

    There are $1.50 packs of a dozen palmiers (puff pastry with carmelized sugar on the bottom) or croissants EVERYWHERE.

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010

    sometimes it just works

    The neuter gender in Spanish, from After three.5 years of high school Spanish and a semester of college Spanish, I had *never* seen this in a textbook, but I have read it/heard it multiple times.

    Yay for learning!

    Monday, July 26, 2010

    this dog is awesome.

    Doggy on "amazing feats of balance."

    Sunday, July 25, 2010


    MY NEW SHORTS. (Replacement for the ones that got stolen.)

    The picture was unintentional.

    Friday, July 23, 2010

    travelly doo

    Thought I had on the flight to Madrid, which was in the notebook that got stolen:

    As you should be able to tell, red represents states I have visited. Orange are states which are dubious -- while I have technically set foot in them, does a layover on a long flight count? Does accidentally wandering across a bridge on the Mississippi count?

    Moral of story: I also would like to travel more in the U.S. at some point (though at this moment I am still more attracted to international locales.) Mainly the stuff I would really like to see is in the west -- Rockies, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, and so on. Of course I'd like to go to Alaska and Hawaii, but those are not within reach of a driving trip (Grandma Dyer might disagree on the former, but I stand by my statement). And there's the usual host of cities I'd like to visit at the very least to say that I had (Philadelphia, Seattle, New Orleans, San Francisco, Chicago, etc.)

    Monday, July 19, 2010

    the weekend: the worst and then the best

    Okay, so this weekend was an experience.

    I am going to write about it in reverse, because that way it ends on the really good note instead of just the okay good note.

    So first: Sunday.

    I hung out in my room for a while. I was kind of tired from the day before, so I made a big bowl of mashed potatoes and ate them. At about 3:00, I decided I needed some exercise and went out for a walk with my bag. I thought I might do some sketching. I went toward Plaza Mayor again; it's very pretty and the walk there is nice. I stopped in an H&M (thinking to myself: you know, sometimes globalization is not all bad) and bought a striped shirt and new pair of shorts (one pair of mine is getting some holes.) (Side note: Am now a size smaller in some H&M clothes than I was in May. Yay! Unfortunately, the sizes aren't real consistent in that store -- the same size is 34 on the first floor and a 40 on the basement floor.)

    Friday, July 16, 2010

    mashed potatoes

    for breakfast.

    I am so full of win I scare myself.

    Thursday, July 15, 2010

    random notes

    One: Realized something terrible today, i.e. that for some portions of Madrid's male population mullets are acceptable. NOT OKAY. I even saw one mullet that was shaved all around and then had lots of little skinny dreadlocks in the back. GROSS.

    Two: Purchased bus tickets to Granada and back for the weekend of August 14-15. They were 30 euros (as compared to 37 euros online.) WHOOOO.

    Three: For another personal treat, I bought myself an ice tray.

    Four: I now have a tumblr, contemplating chicken. Taking a cue from a fellow design student/friend, I plan to use it to make note of images I find interesting/inspiring.

    Five: One of my fellow Fenbeings, who happens to be Puerto Rican, commented once, "I don't know why they teach coche and carro as words for car in American Spanish classes. No one says coche! Maybe they say it in Spain." YES THEY DO. I HEARD THEM.

    organizing my desktop/brain for some serious sketching

    One lesson I forgot from yesterday: Do not believe you will be able to fry onions and a breaded fish fillet in the same pan and have both be tasty. It's awkward; the onions end up burnt and the fish fillet ends up soggy.

    Went to a meeting thing for the organization which is funding my internship in Madrid, PromoMadrid. The meeting was entirely in Spanish; I would say I understood about half of it, and could have understood more had people spoken a bit more slowly. We were supposed to talk about our opinions and experiences in the PromoMadrid program. Most people said they were happy to work with MIT (please, shiny diploma, please help me convince people that I am good to work with) and that three months maybe wasn't long enough. (Hear, hear!)

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010

    lessons of the last two days

    1. Older is not (always) better.

    The 1954 version of Sabrina with Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart is charming, but the 1995 version (with Harrison Ford) is overall funnier, more touching, and has more sympathetic characters, in my humble opinion. Everyone is less disagreeable overall, there is stuff shot on-site in Paris, etc. (Watched this last night.)

    2. It pays to keep wandering in slightly different directions.

    During lunch today I stumbled upon the Temple de Debod, a portion of an Egyptian temple that was donated to Spain in the 60s after they helped (provided monetary support?) save some temples from the Aswan dam project. Tomorrow maybe I shall have time to actually go in the little museum, and take pictures. It's very pretty how they have it set up on the edge of the park.

    3. Things that are familiar with a slight twist can make you laugh.

    Today while standing in line in the grocery store I happened to note some little Disney board books in the display next to the checkout, La Dama y el Vagabundo and La Sirenita among them. Both of those made me chuckle; my mind shortcuts to "the Dame and the Vagabond" even though I know they mean "the Lady and the Tramp."

    4. Don't make your (my) list too long, or you (I) will just ignore most of it and fall asleep.

    I accomplished #2 on my list: Buy toilet paper.

    5. Caramel flavor is not always good.

    I bought some pudding cups labeled "flan," which is vanilla pudding with caramel sauce in the bottom. I took one to lunch today. It was gross, for reasons I can't fully articulate. Perhaps the flavoring was fake? Perhaps the lukewarm-ness turned me off? I don't know. Luckily I spent less than a euro on the pudding cups.

    6. Corn flakes are always good.

    7. People are not necessarily waiting to test you on your language skills.

    We had a 20 minute coffee break at the end of work today. I actually held on to the conversation for 10 minutes or so before it got too fast and I got too lost. No one seemed to object. I also said a few simple things in Spanish, which is a start at the very least.

    Well it is late and I must be up early. Good night.

    yup, this pretty well sums it up.

    Brilliant post about. . . well. . . attempting to be an adult. The "guilt spiral" is particularly characteristic of me.

    On a separate note, after I walk to work every morning, my legs then throb for the next twenty minutes after I sit down at my desk. What's up with that? Combination of heat and concrete stress?

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010

    by train! by plane! by bus! probably not by boat.

    I am queen of plan/list-making and now is not an exception.

    I have spent a noteworthy amount of time contemplating upon my Lonely Planet Discover Spain guide. I have flipped through (I think) every section and made notes and dog-eared the pages.

    A brief summary of my plans:

    Monday, July 12, 2010

    now that my supply of underwear has been secured

    i.e. I did laundry (successfully!) for the first time in the tiny washing machine in the kitchen. After examining the settings, I used "cashmere," because it had the lowest temperature and lowest spin rate. I need to buy some clothespins, though. . . I have the drying rack in my room, but I suspect them would dry more quickly on the line outside my window. (This actually happened last Thursday, but whatever.)

    Last night I went on a small adventure to. . . ahem. . . McDonald's. I rationalized it to myself by saying that I was celebrating July 4 a few days late. I was distracted by a large grocery store next door to the golden arches -- Carrefour's. I think I am starting to map my neighborhood in supermarkets. This one had chicken (yay!) and tuna canned in water (yay!) but still no vanilla yogurt (boo!). (Caprabo's, the small grocery store closest to me, basically just stocks ten different kinds of ham and tuna canned in three kinds of oil -- olivia (olive), girasol (sunflower), and unspecified.) (Nowhere yet have I found vanilla yogurt. A multitude of fruit flavors, yes. Plantain flavor, yes. Coconut flavor, yes. Vanilla? No. I bought plain yogurt "con azucar" (with sugar). It is mediocre but filling.)

    I purchased a hamburger Happy Meal with fries and a minisundae (? that's a new one. I don't think they include dessert in the U.S.) It came with two toys (intentional? maybe not.) The minisundae was okay, except for the MASHED BANANAS at the bottom. FOUL. I think the full-on joy of McDonald's I experienced last summer was seriously mitigated by the fact that I have been cooking food very similar to what I would eat in the U.S. for the last week. The main difference is a ready supply of mini-croissants at the grocery store. . . and the ham problem.

    Two things I have not really addressed yet in my blog are a) work and b) language issues.

    Sunday, July 11, 2010


    Today I discovered some "galletas de mantequilla" at the grocery store.

    In English? BUTTER COOKIES. This is not good.

    I don't know why I could resist the Walker's Shortbread (yes, they have that too) and not this cute little tin with multiple shapes of shortbread.

    Now, out for a walk.

    Friday, July 9, 2010

    um erk

    Not sure precisely what's going to get a really positive reaction yet, but it's not any of this*.

    Still in the deep and awkward throes of chair design.

    * In case it's not clear, these are the four sorta interchangeable chairs I spent the last two days coming up with. :P

    Wednesday, July 7, 2010

    a bit more

    I have decided that, after six and a half days without it, to get out the iPod for my jaunt to work and the lunch hour. No, it's not the safest thing ever to have my ears plugged up, but mine is nice neighborhood, I won't be using the iPod whilst walking after dark, and I desperately need the energy jolt music can provide while I am coming up off of caffeine.

    I found this list of warning signs that you are seriously addicted to caffeine:

    Do you frequently feel fatigued throughout the day? Do you rely on caffeine to maintain your energy level? (Holy crap yes.)

    Do you find it difficult to concentrate without a cup of coffee or your favorite soft drink? (See: My entire college career.)

    Do you suffer from severe mood swings or PMS? (Um maybe.)

    Do you have frequent headaches, severe heartburn, or high blood pressure? (Yes to the heartburn.)

    Do you often feel dizzy? (Usually I know when this is because of caffeine or interactions with other stuff, but I guess you could say that.)

    Is it difficult for you to fall asleep at night? Do you often wake up feeling exhausted? (No, and yes.)

    That's. . . ~5.5 out of 6. Also found another site that claims you can suffer "mild depression" during the withdrawal phase, which would potentially explain my slightly glum atmosphere the last couple of days (coupled with moving stress, of course.)

    Un suspiro largo. . .

    pictures (not of Spain, alas)

    Last night I bought detergent and watched The Triplets of Belleville. It was adorable, while making fun of France, the U.S. -- basically everything it touched on, it simultaneously made fun of and smiled at. (Fred Astaire, the Tour de France, the position of maitre d'hotel, people who love appliances, Boy Scouts. . .) It was technically in French, but the main characters didn't speak, so it didn't particularly matter.

    Tuesday, July 6, 2010

    a wish. . .

    I wish sometimes that I could send my personality in for a tune-up. I would fill out things on a little yellow sheet -- "God, fix these things here, okay? Clean out the junk here. Tighten this up." I would send away my personality express in a padded envelope, maybe sleep for a couple days while it was being worked on, then get it back with a receipt of repairs performed.

    I was thinking about that this morning, when I decided that it a definitely a personality defect that I usually dread rather than look forward to meeting new people. What's up with that? I worry about looking like an idiot -- but man, it's not like I can really avoid it.

    (I'm not in deep trouble yet, but I see myself beginning to repeat some social patterns of last summer that didn't do me much good.)

    I worry also because I'm not super-excited yet about planning trips to Barcelona, Granada, and wherever I'm going at the end of the summer. I mean, holy crap -- great opportunity! Opportunity of a lifetime, even! Why am I not bubbling over with excitement?

    But mainly right now I just feel tired. I think "jet lag" is the only real, physical thing I could blame this on, but my personal opinion is that moving, even temporarily, knocks the crap out of you. Getting on a bus or a plane, even one pointed at Venice or Rome, does not fill me with enthusiasm.

    I am optimistic, however -- reading about the museums in Madrid makes me feel a mild but pleasant anticipation. I can handle walking around town. Presumably I will feel more bouncy as time goes on.

    Monday, July 5, 2010

    new word for the day

    Secuestrar, "to kidnap."

    In other news, I haven't quite gotten used to the Spanish air-kiss-on-both-cheeks thing -- I don't think I can quite do it naturally yet. . .

    Saturday, July 3, 2010

    when there are so many things

    that I could do, many of which would even be useful or pleasant -- such as a reading a book, studying Spanish, writing a real blog entry, working on a submission for Threadless, writing, researching various things, writing emails to various people -- all I ever end up doing is sitting on my bed. Or sleeping.

    In other news, I visited the Prado today (after getting pretty lost and walking through a park* of 17th and 18th century portraits (except for the amusing one of two toddlers in tiny white wigs), but I did enjoy the dramatic 19th century "history" paintings. Also went through several galleries of Velazquez's work. I've obviously never visited another gallery in the home country of a famous European painter, so I don't know if it's normal for one museum to contain what surely must be the majority of a painter's works, or if that is unique to Spain/Madrid. I mean, I'm not sure any other painters are as closely identified with the national identities of any other countries as Velazquez (and Goya, and El Greco) is with Spain.

    Also, something excellent about the Prado: It's open until 8 every day, and free from 6-8 every day. Yeah! 8 euros isn't a huge amount, but still.

    Off to be a bum now.

    * So whenever I say I walked through a park, my parents are generally convinced that I am nine-tenths of the way down the road to being murdered and dismembered, possibly for my Birkenstocks. I actually did have one (but ONLY ONE) creepy guy approach and speak to me in English (?!!), then when I pretended he wasn't there and kept walking, accused me of not speaking to black people (I think, I couldn't really understand his accent.) I kept ignoring him and walking so I could enjoy my park-ly experience (the rest of the park was lovely, thanks), but I was really pissed for at least ten minutes. I think you have to be a complete moron (or a crook) if you approach a woman you don't know who is walking by herself in a big city and then are surprised when she refuses to talk to you. Ugh.


    Just cooked my first meal in Spain (up until now, I was surviving primarily on corn flakes). . .carrots, onions, and chicken, all liberally sprinkled with thyme and rosemary, with a side of buttered pasta. Nom.

    Things I learned in the process of cooking:

    In order to use the gas stove, I had to turn on the valve for the gas, then turn on the burner, then light the burner myself (no little convenient clicky thing is included in the burner). While there are several lighters in the kitchen, none of them seem to work, so I use a long rolled-up piece of paper instead. (There is a box on one side of the kitchen with a little opening through which you can see a little gas flame. . . I think it might be the water heater. . .)

    Rosemary = Romero. Thyme = Tomillo.

    Olive oil is (surprise!) cheaper in Spain (About $3 for a liter.) Veggies are normal-ish prices; meat is somewhat more expensive.

    There doesn't seem to be a fire alarm in the kitchen, and I haven't found the switch for turning on the exhaust fan over the stove. I am mainly happy about this, as I had developed quite a grudge against the psycho alarm at Fenway.

    I have quite a bit I'd like to talk about later. So far, my main observation about Madrid is that compared to Tokyo, everything seems. . . a little looser, a little less . . . tense? (I can't really compare it to home. That comparison just doesn't go when I try to run it through my head.) My room is a little bigger, with higher ceilings and a very small balcony. The washer is free; there are clotheslines installed either outside the windows or on the balcony, in my case. The bathroom is bigger; there is a tub with a shower instead of a rectangular box. There are trees growing in more places. My office is a little bigger, with a few less people working in it (five total, including me, instead of ten total, including me). People seem to work normal-ish hours -- 9 to 6 with an hour for lunch (although the 30-minute smoke breaks don't seem to be such a big thing here.) My two Italian coworkers worked nine hours a day this week, but they didn't come in on Friday because they were going home to Sardinia for the weekend.

    I don't know if these little things are actually indicative of a more relaxed attitude toward life, or if they are just indicators of Western culture that I missed while in Japan, and so I feel more relaxed when they are present.