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.

(this section written a bit later than the first)

a. work.

Work is good. . .sorta. . .hard to to explain.

I really like the project that I'm working on. In theory, what I'm doing is helping design (or designing myself? not sure how much input I have in the final product at this point) a line of furniture with interchangeable parts made of eco-friendly materials. Lots of research, lots of drawing. The main problem with this is: I can't quite figure out what my bosses want. My first chair designs they just sort of. . . stared at, and then said each chair needed to speak its own "language." Then they suggested I work with basic shapes -- circles, squares, stars, hearts, whatever, to develop chairs that all used the same language of forms (I'm paraphrasing here, this involved a lot more "hmmm-ing" and "aaaaaah-ing" in real life as various parties searched for the right words.) Then after I spent an afternoon doing that. . . they suggested I go out into internet land and find previously designed chairs that could be disassembled into interchangeable parts relatively easily (back, seat, legs, arms, etc.)

Crappy photo of the best sketches I generated with the "triangle" idea.

The problem with this instruction is that most people design furniture to have smooth, flowing lines and interconnection between the various pieces, such that few works can easily be disassembled into their component parts.

One advantage of this project is that I am getting a lightning-fast education in famous (and current) furniture designers. Charles and Ray Eames, Jean Prouvé, and a whole host of Danish dudes -- Verner Panton, Hans Wegner, et cetera -- all mid-century modern type folks. In my cruising through design blogs for slightly more contemporary stuff, I found a lot of other stuff -- a design for the solar decathlon house (vaguely associated with MIT but I'm not sure how), transforming furniture, turning waste plastic into vacuum cleaners (not sure this is possible, but damn, it's a nice idea: just scoop up all the thrown-away plastic in the entire world, melt it down, pour into molds for new appliances, and hey presto!), bookshelf porn (self-explanatory, have fun), series of interesting posts on bldgblog, et cetera. This project has tied back pleasantly into my visit to MoMA's architecture gallery in late May (during the New York trip which I never blogged about, sorry. :( ) where I saw a lot of this stuff for the first time.

Side note. . . I needn't have been worried about the issue of dress code. It's certainly not in the pajama-pants arena of last summer (bwah), but for instance, one of my bosses is wearing shorts and a t-shirt today.

b. language.


Well, it could be going worse.

I (rationalizing as usual) have framed the language issues in terms of Japan last summer. In that case, I could say some things, but it was hard for me to understand anyone speaking to me, and I obviously (? right, obviously?) couldn't read much of anything. Here, if someone speaks slowly (si habla despacio), I can usually understand them, and I can read. . . a bit? I went to the National Museum of Archaeology this weekend and didn't have much difficulty reading the portions of the placards that were not translated into English. (Stuff like, "what was the original purpose of the sculpture of the Dama de Elche." ) I haven't really been speaking in Spanish yet at all, though. :P

c. more later on travel plans.

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