24 January 2009

Categories, Lists, and Labels

I had a dream last night that I went on a retreat to some weird fort-like house in the middle of nowhere, and I was tasked with taking on a number of small science experiments. Naturally I signed up for nearly all of them (like I do with everything), and they included such gems as trying to grow grass on the roof of the house I was at and going on as many rollercoasters as possible until I threw up. In the dream, I was all for this, apparently.

At some point during the dream I realized I actually had to go to class this week and then I tried to figure out how I could complete all of my science experiments, go to class, and finish my thesis at the same time. When I woke up I thought, "maybe my brain is mad at me for trying to do too much," and it's true, I always try to do too much. I've been trying to simplify my life lately....but I just get so excited about things. I can't help it. I love learning. Case in point, my latest post on my Archinect school blog about the lecture I saw this week and the ensuing conversation with the lecturer. So cool!

I usually have to distill things in my life into categories and lists, and label everything just to get it done. My Archinect school blog, although a source of excitement, will cease to exist after I graduate, and my LA/bike/LILAWAC blog will cease to exist very soon (in some ways it already has). But I'll still be here, and my web site will be up and running soon, and that has a blog too...and it has categories! The fun never ends :o)

20 January 2009

1.20.09 :: History

Cross posted on my Archinect School Blog....

Where were you when Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States?

A lot of people in the media and news have been saying this over the past couple of days, as an indication that we should take stock of this day, and remember this moment in our country's history. I couldn't agree more, and it's one of the reasons I love blogging so much. Generally speaking, my long-term memory is horrible; so, if I get to blog about this day, and share it with everyone, perhaps I will remember a little better.

So, in answer to my own question, I was sitting on the living room couch at 9:05 am PST, in my loft apartment in Downtown Los Angeles, drinking water out of my Obama mug, and fighting back tears of pride.

view on my TV

Perhaps it's because I relate to this person so much, perhaps it's because since our introduction to him over 4 years ago, I really got what he was trying to say; and perhaps it's because not only did I get it, but I agreed with him, and I decided to trust him ... perhaps that's why I teared up and laughed at the same time as I watched the formality of the ceremony, the slightly mangled oath, and the "redman can get ahead, man" man. Here he is, OUR president - not only is he smart and competent and fair and capable, he's inspired all of us to stand behind him, and with this wind at his back, he's moved so many of us to service. Like the 30 or so people with rubber gloves and bags, many of whom showed up sporting Obama t-shirts, in Echo Park yesterday ... the people who, like me, came to clean up the park, but who ran out of work in about an hour with so many helping hands around.

a family helps to clean up Echo Park

It's a really special moment in our nation's history, and I hope that everyone got a chance to breathe, and take it all in. This is as valuable a learning experience as any design charette, or competition entry, or 10-page paper, or 3D model that you may be embroiled in currently. Because it begs the question, why do you do those things? Why did you go to architecture school, or any type of school, and why are you taking out those loans? What do you hope to accomplish in your life, with your skills, for your fellow human beings?

Downtown Los Angeles from Echo Park

I have answers to those questions, too; but today I'll ask for your patience, and soon, I'll ask for your participation.

Happy Inauguration Day, everyone!

18 January 2009

Getting older stinks

Ok, so the title of my post tells really only half the story. It's not that I mind the getting older part, per se, because I really don't; I'm in the best shape I've ever been in (theoretically) and I'm certainly pursuing work that I enjoy with a clarity that I didn't have when I was younger.

No, the part about getting older that I don't enjoy is the unexpected curve balls that my body is throwing me, namely, allergies to things that I love. In the past couple of years, I've apparently become allergic to at least two things that we know of:
  1. Cats. I discovered this after I had had my own cat for at least 2 1/2 years. Initially when I got her, my hands broke out in a rash and my upper lip swelled. I thought this was a freak coincidence, since I had never been allergic to cats before, so I just started taking generic allergy pills every other day and forgot about it. I only figured out that I WAS allergic to cats last summer, when I decided to stop taking my pills - why was I taking them if I didn't know what I was allergic to? And then I took my cat to the groomer to get her shaved, and my arms broke out in a rash after helping to hold her while she got a hair cut. So that was a sad day when I realized I was allergic to cats, since I love animals of all kinds.
  2. Wine. Another sad day was when I realized that wine very well might be causing the wretched migraines I have had infrequently over the past couple of years. I had never had problems with it before, but I can count 3 occasions in the past 15 months where I've ingested some wine and then been down for at least the next 2 days. I went to the doctor and he said that I was experiencing a "classic migraine presentation." Then he gave me a big long list of foods I "might want to avoid" and I laughed, since I consume most of them - but I'll admit, I've been afraid to try wine ever since then.
So I'm mentioning all of this because it irks me, and also I feel like I might be doing a little bit of a service to anyone else who may experience strange symptoms from allergies they've never had before. When I went to the doctor after getting my cat and I told them that I had a rash and a swollen upper lip, they A) thought I was nuts and B) failed to mention that you can develop allergies as you get older. And with the migraines, I've always had headaches so it took me a while to realize that the 48-hour ones I was having might not be normal. (With the wine allergy, some research suggests that a sensitivity to sulfites is what actually causes the headaches. I haven't had the time to stock up on painkillers and test this theory, however.)

Anyway, I'm coping. I'm looking for sulfite-free wine and still taking my daily allergy pill - after all, we have a new little friend in our apartment and I'd much rather sneeze a little bit than evict him. (Any suggestions towards a strategy for dealing with Che the growing kitten are appreciated...)

photo courtesy of Che's owner, my roommate

17 January 2009


I am a serial participater when it comes to anything civic or social or, well, basically anything. I'm a doer. So when I heard about this opportunity to interact with our new President, I knew I needed to talk about it.

Called the Citizen's Briefing Book, it's a way for you, me, and everyone to suggest our ideas to President Obama. Basically you log into the page on Change.gov, you suggest an idea, and then people vote on it. The highest rated ideas will be compiled into a book that is presented to Obama after he is sworn in, and then on a regular basis thereafter.

I am already plotting what my first idea will be: something related to my thesis, perhaps, or another idea about the environment? I will figure something out. In the meantime, I encourage everyone to give it your best shot, and actually participate in your government for once. With any luck (and barring the devolution of this exercise into a popularity contest), this will become a real and extremely useful tool in the new administration.

So go ahead and participate!

13 January 2009


A while back I wrote a blog post about my favorite things, citing my love of photography and of taking pictures. The fact is that I have a lot of favorite things that I nerd out over on a regular basis, and they keep me sane and amused, which is helpful when I have to stare at code all day for my thesis work (stay tuned on that...).

Three of my favorite things are recycling, maps, and bags. A few days ago, I wrote about recycling. I don't know that I've brought up maps yet, but I had to share this map that I saw online the other day... it's a map of the United States with states renamed for countries with a similar Gross Domestic Product. Awesome! (For additional awesome-ness with regards to maps, check out the Strange Maps blog.)

I'm almost positive I have never talked about bags, because seriously, what would I say? It's hard to explain but I just like to be organized, which means I have a bag that can carry nearly everything I own. Anyway, the reason I'm bringing up bags now is because of a lovely gift I received over the holidays. It combines these three things - recycling, maps, and bags - in one item. And voila! You have the recycled subway map clutch bag from Ecoist:

My bag looks kind of, but not exactly, like this.

Anyone else have some favorite things that, when combined, equal awesome-ness? I'll give you an example: Will Smith + zombies + the apocalypse = Hollywood blockbuster, aka I Am Legend. Discuss.

09 January 2009

My bank sent me a check for $.03.

In honor of my 200th post here on the wonderSphere, I just wanted everyone to know that my bank saw fit to send me a check for 3 cents after I closed one of my savings account there. Don't get me wrong, I like my bank a lot, especially since they didn't invest in a lot of crappy home loans and fail, but ... a check for 3 cents? Really? You can't just put it into one of the other accounts I have there? Jeepers.

06 January 2009

EnviroHint #4: Freecycle

Happy New Year! Now that it's 2009, I've decided to start shedding all of the extra "stuff" that takes up space in my apartment for no reason. If and when I decide to move again, getting rid of this extra stuff will lighten my load significantly. Besides, if I haven't worn those shoes in 3 years, chances are good that I won't be wearing them again any time soon, right? In any case, I'm purging, but I'm trying to do so constructively. Here's some thoughts for anyone else that might want clean their home out in the new year:
  1. Give to Goodwill. I take it for granted that this is everyone's first choice. There are other places to go too, like St. Vincent de Paul and what not. But Goodwill is closest to me. However, when I have something like a box of tile grout that I figure no one at Goodwill could really make use of, I .....
  2. Freecycle! If, like me, you have a lot of stuff in your closet that isn't really worth enough to put on Craigslist but it seems like a waste to give it to Goodwill, try Freecycling instead. The Freecycle network is national, and most major metropolitan areas have chapters. You can sign up for your local network and then, when you have stuff to give away, you simply post an entry with a description and there's a good chance someone will snatch it up. The good news is, you can get stuff that you need through others' Freecycling as well....and of course, it's all FREE.
  3. Give to the homeless. It make take a little more effort than giving to Goodwill...or maybe not? Your local homeless shelter may be closer than your nearest Goodwill. For me, giving to the homeless means putting something conspicuous in the alley behind my apartment building and waiting for it to disappear.
  4. Make your favorite t-shirts into rags. If you are also like me and you have a hard time parting with favorite t-shirts (see my last 3 Envirohints), make them into rags. You will smile each time you use them since A) you still have them and B) they are saving you money that you would have spent on Swiffers.
  5. Create a re-gifting pile. OK, so this one requires a bit of strategery. Clearly, you can't give stuff that you don't need or use to people who gave it to you or to people who know them, since you could be foiled. But, frankly, I have a small but significant pile of stuff that's never been used and is fine for others, but just not for me. This is the start of my regifting pile! I can't wait for the next person I know to have a birthday! :o)
I am still finding stuff to get rid of but the last few days have been quite a flurry of Freecycling and giving. Go ahead and try it, it's liberating!