Jumping over the lazy dog

or, taking the bull by the horns.

Resolved.

This year, instead of making New Year’s resolutions, I’ve decided to make New Semester’s resolutions. In the past, I’ve made lists a mile long on the 1st…only to have them dwindle to nothing by the time February rolls around. So instead of trying to accomplish everything at once – and try to remember everything I’m trying to accomplish while trying to accomplish that which I remember I wanted to accomplish (whew!) – I’m whittling down the list to 3 things at a time, about 4 months at a time.

Now, I’m breaking the year up into semesters…but my resolutions (so far) have little to do with school. “Doing well at school” and “trying hard in class” are kind of no-brainers, that’s how I was raised, doing anything less was unacceptable. On the other hand, because my childhood was so school-centric, I never really focused on my health. Last semester is probably the best example of how I manage to abuse my body for the sake of succeeding in academia: four hours of sleep every third night, two all-nighters in a row, almost zero exercise, endless take-out meals…so this semester’s resolutions are about me, and not about school.

Resolution 1: Improve my posture.

Gratuitous bathing-suit-clad ladies with books on their heads. I won't be doing that.

There came a point in the last semester where I looked like Quasimodo when I rolled out of bed every morning. That point was October. And it only got worse…by the end of the semester, I looked like Marty Feldman in Young Frankenstein.

Then, I spent the best $25 I could’ve all semester: I got a 30 minute massage. One of the second years had a girlfriend who happened to be a masseuse. She came in and set up her table on the sixth floor the weekend before final reviews. Having already spent almost 24 hours non-stop slumped at my computer, I dragged myself upstairs, to come back a new woman, with the ability to reach my arms over my head without grimacing in pain, bend over and touch the floor, breathe…and then I promptly slump at my desk for another two days.

So: resolution  number one: get better posture. Mostly seated posture, though standing posture might make me look a smidgen taller, which wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

Resolution 2: Get [at least] 15 minutes of exercise a day.

For about a month and a half last semester, a classmate and I managed to sneak out after studio for a quick run, about 3 times a week, to release some stress and get energized for the long nights ahead. Then Thanksgiving break came around…and I fell off the wagon. So here I am, back again, clambering back on. I’m trying to make it easy on myself – so only demanding 15 minutes a day, which, let’s be honest – if I can’t find 15 minutes in a day for myself…there’s something terribly wrong with my priorities in life. If I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll up it to 30 minutes by the end of the semester, at least thrice a week…but no pressure. Get those 15 minutes in, and I’m considering myself golden.

And for some motivation, the man who’s been getting people off their tushes for decades, Richard:

Resolution 3: Cook at home more.

Another disappointment last semester was the number of times I found myself eating out. Cheap(ish) food, sometimes more than twice a week, that filled me up but left me feeling nasty only a few hours after…and a few pounds heavier and several dollars lighter by the end of the semester.

Now, one of my favorite things about our apartment is the large kitchen. It’s roomy enough to cook while people keep you company, and though there isn’t much counter space, it’s light=filled and just a good place to be. If I’m making excuses, I’d say the heavy workload and the distance between studio and the apartment was why I didn’t get very many opportunities to make use of this kitchen. But the thing is, when I decided to make time, I could. Every other week, I’d spend Sundays cooking meals for the rest of the week. We had dinner parties a few times and I’d made pumpkin bread pudding or apple cake or braised chicken (the last one was a procrastination tool – I really didn’t want to work on my paper, so I had people over for dinner).

The point is, I like cooking, and I like our kitchen. My performance this semester is contingent upon my sanity..and my sanity is contingent upon my happiness; ergo, if cooking in the kitchen makes me happy, I ought to try and do it a bit more!

The measure of success is as follows: if I cook every weekend, and spend less than $20/week on eating out, I’m doing much better than last semester.

Our kitchen, as seen from the living room. Nothing matches - but look at the light!

So there you have it, my three Semester’s Resolutions. While posting daily updates about my posture and exercise habits would be a bit ludicrous, I’ll try and post some of my cooking adventures – at least the ones that are photogenic.

Filed under: Close to home, , , , , ,

4000 cubic feet and other architectural recipes

Short stories, and illustrated, at that. Bon appetit!

4000 c.f.

Our first project of the semester asked us to create a pavilion on an imaginary site, incorporating a tectonic language that was integral to the form-making of our intervention. If nothing else, my vocabulary is improving.

I created a module composed of a perforated sheet that expands to create internal volume. The module is then repeated and varied to create a wall and roof condition. I was really trying to capture diffused light and create a moire effect as you pass through the site.

One of the biggest challenges of this program so far has been transitioning from digital to traditional drawing techniques. I seem to have a fear of failing in a hand-drawing, and so try it out first on CAD. This might be counter-productive to my desire to get more than 5 hours of sleep a night...

Our final review was last Monday and Tuesday (gosh, I can’t believe it was a week ago – time flies incredibly fast around here…) and I got a pretty good review! The guest critics got a bit distracted by the drawing below, and wound up spending most of their time talking about that drawings potential.

This drawing was a preliminary study of the surface of a ball of yarn...I extrapolated the way a thread of yarn, as a line, pulls itself apart to create an internal volume. We never really got around to talking about that bit in the critique...

But overall, I think it went well. A classmate took notes for  me, and a good thing too, because I barely remember what happened (not because of sleep deprivation, but because it’s a bit like performing on stage – the highlights you remember aren’t those the audience remembers).

Formal Analysis with Peter Eisenman

Where we learned that Louis Khan died $4 million in debt and we should assume a similar fate awaits us. We also try to analyze buildings.

Our first drawing asked us to find the critical difference between Brunelleschi's San Lorenzo and Santo Spirito. I looked at the axial relationships in San Lorenzo that are inhibited by the rigid adherence to the grid in Santo Spirito.

These two drawings were my first attempts at ink on mylar. It's both challenging and very zen - you draw all your verticals, then wait, draw all your horizontals, then wait, draw all your diagonals in one direction, etc...wax on, wax off. (These are the preliminary CAD/Illustrator files, by the way...my line weights for the final drawing were much better).

Other waking hour preoccupations include…

  • Visualisation II: A continuation of my summer studies, with a lot of sketching leading to a drawing each week. I’ll post the sketches and drawings after our first review next week.
  • Modern Architecture: I get to sit and listen to Kurt Forster talk about architecture. That’s pretty awesome. Like most of our faculty, he has a good sense of humor and doesn’t hesitate to bring it into the classroom. Last week he managed to reference both Harry Potter and Star Wars.
  • Structures: I’m really glad we have one no-nonsense class. I’m learning a lot, math and engineering wise, but am glad I did a design degree as an undergrad, because the professor likes to skim past construction terminology that some of my classmates aren’t familiar with (CMUs, flange, shear connection, etc.).

A non-architectural side-note: Brownie Sundae Sunday

My roommates and I hosted a get-together / impromptu house-warming party. There were delicious brownie sundaes and refreshments. Everyone mingled nicely. We cleaned up within an hour of kicking the last person out the door. I’d consider it a success.

The roommates and I in front of our darling black board. Unfortunately, only W got the suit memo.

Next time on Jumping over the lazy dog: Amrita gets to be a prisoner and have a round-table discussion with Peter Eisenman.

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How does an architect sigh?

Oh, void. *badum-schhh*

By the end of the summer session, our appreciation for puns had improved significantly, or our sense of humor had depreciated drastically, depending on your point of view. This was probably due to the lack of sleep provoked by the final part of the Enclosure project: the two-point perspective. A harmless drawing, at first sight, until you add the following caveats: a two-point perspective with a final width of 6′ in its smallest dimension, constructed as a participant in a 2-3 person group. Oh yes, this was a group project.

My teammates and I began with a few sketches but moved quickly to the larger drawing, since we had a lot of ground to cover...literally. Those blue lines were constructed with a chalk-line. Our thumbtack place-holders for the vanishing points were spaced more than 20' apart. That's four times my height, in case you were wondering.

The finished oversized perspective, made with, as the critics noted, a lot of love.

My favorite part was probably the trees - I'd never done trees in charcoal before, so I was winging it. I filled in the shadows and "bulk" while my teammate cleaned up my act by kneading away the highlights. Yes, those are her fingerprints.

I made it to studio the morning of our final review, feeling not terribly tired, since our group managed to stay on track with our scheduling on the massive drawing, allowing me to stay on track with my own work. Unfortunately, I arrived two hours early because pin-up was at 10AM, not 9, and nobody sent me the memo, resulting in an energy slump somewhere between what should have been lunch and my own review (next-to-last in line). So while I’d love to regale you with more curious quotes, they seem to have escaped me this time around. Overall, I’d say it was another series of positive critiques, in the sense that while all critics acknowledge various faults in the drawings presented, they did so with a smile and nod of encouragement. Which softens the blow of someone “hmm”-ing at every line in your drawing.

After the critique, for which many of us were asleep, we went home and slept some more. Then we came back to speak to our professors in an exit interview, where I gathered that while ambition is a good thing, I need to learn time management. While my professors might not be reading this blog, and therefore might not be aware of “the Amrita,” they are right in pointing out that it’s not exactly an efficient method of working. Perhaps I should give more thought to the reasons “the Amrita” comes about…and then figure out a preventive treatment for this ailment.

On the plus side, I also learned I can write! Well, I can write well enough to have my essay for the history portion of the summer session published in our course documentation booklet. If you’re so curious as to want to read my essay, you can purchase a copy of the entire book for $33.50, a comfortably-sized coffee table volume of beautiful drawings, or you can do what us poor grad students do and download a PDF version for free.

Perhaps the best part of the last week of summer courses was the After Party. At an undisclosed location, at a rather high altitude, we danced the night away. Nothing helps you forget the minute details of a facade like getting down to Kanye.

Filed under: All Hail Yale, , , , , , , , ,

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.

This is the story of the little Amrita that could. Right after risking my life (ok, losing a lot of sleep and subsequently almost eating toothpaste in the morning), I was handed an assignment that would change my life: thus far, I had managed to survive two undergraduate degrees and three weeks of Architecture Boot Camp with less than 2 days per week of under 5 hours of sleep. That, alas, was not to be the case during Weeks 4 and 4.5.

Our final pin up was to be the result of a week and a half analysis of an enclosure on campus. We were allowed to chose our site from a shortlist. A classmate and I chose an exciting passage  designed by Eero Saarinen (we all know I’m a huge fan), and thought we’d be proactive by taking our measurements Saturday afternoon, rather than waiting till Sunday morning. We arrived at our site to find our ambitious attempt thwarted:

This is our site. It is under construction. I was not prepared to ward off bulldozers in order to measure things with my feet.

So we scurried around campus looking for another site that would do. At 3PM we arrived at Sterling Memorial  Library, enthused to find the intriguing cloisters as an acceptable alternative to our previous selection. And so began our 10-day race against time.

Sterling Memorial Library closes at 4:45PM on Saturdays. And is not open on Sundays. We needed to complete two sections, a plan, and three sets of perceptual drawings and a photo essay by Monday morning. This became a group project. We couldn’t quite shout measurements to each other across the courtyard (this is, after all, a library), but we came close. Frantically pacing between buttresses muttering to myself (10 steps, 90″, 18 steps…wait, where’s my calculator?), my eyes searching out anything of interest to photograph, my pencil swiftly documenting a corner here, a door frame there…we made it out alive, but only barely. Upon returning to my desk I discovered, as we always do, that one elevation didn’t quite match another, and my plan was highly suspect.

This experience became symptomatic of the next week and a half. The library is only open between 8:30AM and 4:45PM on Monday – Saturday during the summer – we have classes from 9-12 and 2-5 pretty much every weekday,  giving us two hours at lunch and an hour or two every other day to squeeze in any additional drawings, measurements and photographs we needed to substantiate the lines we were drawing in AutoCAD.

I, in true Amrita-style, submitted one set of plans and elevations only to completely redo them the following day. This move became known as “the Amrita” at Fontainebleau. Especially if it was combined with an entire overhaul of your design concept. Which this one was. I hadn’t begun with a concept in mind, but after staring at my photo essay and experimenting with a real and digital model, I decided to pursue shadows on the site as a thematic boundary for my study. Not a moment too soon, as by this time it was already Thursday.

But here you have it, folks, sleepless nights and carpal tunneled wrists, all in the pursuit of something akin to a meager understanding of this complex subject we call architecture.

Here are a few photographic shadow studies to get us started.

Many of the doors to and from the cloisters are either hidden or inaccessible. Though I did manage to climb up the stacks and get a birds-eye view of all the entrances and exits to the site...

I was particularly drawn to the shadows the landscape cast upon the architecture, and how these shadows served to both obstruct and accent the architecture upon which they were cast.

These sketches were actually conducted the day before the project was due. I revisited the site several times, each time getting more and more adept at drawing what I needed in a limited amount of time.

The shadow across this recessed door was particularly charming. Studies at multiple scales allowed me to stretch my drawing skills - quick documentation to more focused analysis.

My photographs and sketches led to a SketchUp model and subsequent shadow study of the buildings that enclose the site. A compiliation of data, shadows drawn every hour from 9AM to 5PM, composes this drawing.

There was one more major component to this project (in addition to the plans, elevations and site analysis), but that I shall save for the next post. I’ll say only this: remember my 90″ stair drawing? It was dwarfed by the final part of our Enclosure project.

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Woah-oh, we’re more-than-half way there!

Bon Jovi doesn’t know what it means to be living on a prayer…but two dozen or so people hustling about on the 6th floor of 180 York can clue him in.

Week 3 at Architecture Boot Camp: Midterm Crit.

We architects are not very good at math, it turns out. The end of week three (of five – not six)  was marked by a day-long critique session, with guest critics who teach  (or have taught) or studied (or are studying) at Yale. Everybody pinned up everything they’d completed up to that point, from the self-portrait assignment up to our last major project, The Stair.

And since this is a visual program, I thought I’d walk you through my stuff with images rather than blathering on (which I might wind up doing anyway – isn’t that what captions are for?).

Thanks to our anthropic measurement assignment, I now know the exact length of not only my foot (9") but my face (7"). Not sure how the latter will come in handy, but the former helped me set up this sketch.

One of the major challenges of the program was time. Specifically, the lack thereof. We had to do three perceptual drawings, floorplans, reflected ceiling plans, and two sections of this site: and we had less than three hours before the museum closed.

The same project as above, just another view. My actual hand drawings aren't scanned in correctly, so you guys'll just have to imagine my beautiful section (where I *didn't* cut through a column).

Each project was more challenging than the last, and I, of course, chose the more challenging portions of each project. We were asked to chose a building from a list and reconstruct a bay (repetitive portion of it's facade) in elevation, section and plan. My building was over 100' tall...and so my paper, with the drawing at the required scale, was taller than me.

The last project before mid-terms was The Stair. My subject, the square stairs in a cylindrical drum at the Yale Center for British Art. Which in plan, not too complicated. In an isometric drawing....

...a little bit more complicated. Especially when your professor suggests you attempt to draw three flights of stairs. I decided to focus on the handrail. I suggest you click on the image - the small size conceals all the detail I poured over into the wee hours of the morn'. Did I mention this drawing was almost twice my height?

As for the actual critique, it spawned some unforgettable comments:

  • “This triangle, to me, is the most juicy part of the drawing.”
  • “This line disturbs me.”
  • “Cut as section through my finger, through my foot, the cut line is a continuous line. If you cut a section through anything in this room, through anyone in this room, the cut line would be a continuous line.”
  • “I haven’t done a two-dimensional drawing since second grade.”

When it came to my turn, I stood shaking in my boots as one of the critics approached my 90″-tall stair drawing, peering at my seemingly unfinished drawing – only the handrail was fully drawn in, after all! He stepped back, paused, and said, “I’m going to take the pro view. I think you’re done.” The sigh I released was the largest puff of air ever to be expelled by someone under 5′-0″. The criticism got more constructive, suggestions to eliminate the scale figure, pay more attention to receding lines and their weights, etc. But boy was I glad to have a thumbs up from someone on my stairs. I’d had to re-start that drawing the night before it was due because my original construction depicted one-too-many a step on the second and third levels…and a shrinking overall plan. The lost hours of sleep? Worth it.

No rest for the weary, though. Finals were in less than two weeks, and they put us back to work that very weekend. More on Weeks 4 and 5 coming soon!

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Word of the day: corpulent.

Greetings from the cusp of Week 2-3 of Architecture Boot Camp. Technically, this is not the name of our course. Yale decided it should be called ‘Visualization I.’ But we all know better. While we’re not running through mud and vaulting over fences, we’re certainly burning the not-so-proverbial midnight oil and feeling the strain of necks craning to see that one…last…line…on AutoCAD. So we, too, are suffering for our art, if not for our country.

Week 2 was sketch-tastic. And by that, I mean that we spent hours on end sketching. Every single one of which was a needed break from the life of the AutoCAD droid that consumed our waking hours on Thursday and Friday. Instead of regaling you with more anecdotes of pain-filled minutes offsetting and trimming, I’m going to show you some sketches, so you know I actually had some fun this week!

One of our field trips this week was to the American Decorative Arts Furniture Study, where I chose this adorable mid-19th century chair made of papier-mache. After our hour and a half together, I really wanted to take it home...but that's forbidden.

Our professor thought we should end our rather stressful week with a relaxing exercise: life drawing. It was my first time, and I thoroughly enjoyed it - two dozen gestural sketches later, I was as limber as a yoga instructor.

On our walk back to studio, one of my classmates asked our professor, "So, are all life drawing models so...corpulent?"

The answer is, not always, but often. One of my friends from VT modeled for classes, and she was certainly not corpulent. But it is a lot of fun to draw the bulbous body’s rolling curves.

And if rotund figures weren’t a capital end to the week, I topped it off with a field trip to IKEA to shop for kitchen supplies. My current roommates are leaving on Saturday, but my new roommates (some of whom are bringing things like pots and pans and plates…) aren’t arriving till mid-August, so for a while I would be stuck in a kitchen but unable to cook…IKEA to the rescue! A few dozen dollars later, I’m now the proud owner of a colander, a pot, a pan and a sharp chef’s knife, among other things.

My shiny new colander! It has already been used to prepare bowtie pasta, and looks forward to many more uses in the future!

Well, I should probably be off to finish the first day of Week 3. After tonight’s Rhino tutorial, I’m sure next week’s blog post won’t mention AutoCAD!

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Buy the gal a drink, she’s made it through the week.

Week one of Architecture Boot Camp has been a success. A true representation of studio-culture, it included deceptively simple projects, late nights at the drawing board, readings from Towards A New Architecture, and jokes about ducks. I’ll explain.

Deceptively simple projects and late nights at the drawing board.

I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived in studio at 9AM on Monday, but it wasn’t as scary as I would’ve thought. After a round of paperwork and a tour of the building, we got to know our studio-mates and faculty with a quick round of introductions. We then promptly got our first homework assignment: a self-portrait using a mirror.

So the mirror I had handy was my iPhone...which became a commentary on our dual lives, having to create a digital persona and the bleed between the two realities. Not too shabby.

The rest of our studio assignments were familiar tasks, to me, that is: draw a room in your apartment, select and object and describe it using freehand orthographic projection…and would have been relatively easy, but I thought I’d challenge myself by choosing a spray bottle as my subject for the latter assignment, which proved more complex than the drawings I remember doing in drafting class when I was sixteen.  By the time I left studio at 2AM on Friday, I’d managed to wrap my head around a double rotation of picture planes in my auxiliary view (yeah, it’s as complicated as it sounds). Two hours later, as I tossed and turned in bed, I decided I wanted to re-do one of my earlier drawings, so wound up back in studio at 7AM, taking another crack at a section of my spray bottle. It all turned out for the best, I learned a lot more from tackling this project with the complex object I chose than I would have had I selected a simpler form.

The spray bottle: space towards the bottom left to be filled with another drawing, whenever I get a chance...

Towards A New Architecture and ducks.

I was very impressed by my peers: our group has representatives from across the United States, from Hawaii to upstate New York, from schools both in and out of the Ivy, those who’ve traveled around the world, worked on fishing boats in Alaska or flown in from Asia only two days before classes began. Though no one has a formal background in architecture, many have pursued the field through hobbies or internships or summer programs, and all are very intelligent, accomplished individuals. All of which made me (and my accomplishments) feel very minuscule in comparison! But it’s a good place to be – when you feel dumb, you can only become smarter, so bring on the lessons!

Speaking of lessons, we’ve got 200 pages of readings to do each week, and papers to write, on top of all this studio business. So far, I’ve sunk my teeth into bits of Le Corbusier, Venturi (thus, ducks), Rossi, Kruft and Scully. I think my perspective on architecture falls somewhere between Corb. and Rossi. I believe that architecture should first serve its utilitarian purpose before attempting to make any other statement, and that often another statement need not be made. But I don’t think that buildings are machines, and certainly don’t believe there is a ‘perfect form’ that represents the Essential home or Essential office, etc. On the other hand, Rossi’s argument for urban artifacts, connected to time, focused on individuality and memory…it’s starting to sound like my senior thesis all over again…though that itself might not be a bad thing. There’s got to be a reason why I keep coming back to it, right?

Anyway, before you start thinking we’re a bunch of stuffy snobs, smoking a pipe as we draw our hands across sheets of vellum, twirling compasses and articulating the ends of our line segments while cracking jokes about quacking buildings, I will point out that after our exhausting week, we went out for a rowdy night on Friday, and said almost nothing of architecture itself…for a whole three and a half hours.

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Summer readin’, had me a blaaaast…

Only a few more hours before my summer ‘vacation’ officially comes to an end, so I thought I’d let you know a bit more about what has occupied my free time these last six weeks: books. Between recommendations from friends and my compulsive Amazon-browsing (check out my wish-list!), I managed to consume the following in record time:

  1. Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain. I’d been meaning to read this book since chancing upon an excerpt as part of the required reading for my ‘Happiness’ course senior year; I even bought it for a friend (Ms.Insulin) before I read it, knowing it would be a fantastic read – and it didn’t disappoint. Bourdain’s written voice sounds loud in this text: reading the book is like holding his hand while he spins you around his chaotic world, all the while whispering disgusting truths about the dirt under the not-so-metaphorical kitchen sink.
  2. Why Buildings Stand Up: The Strength of Architecture by Mario Salvadori. I picked up this book on a whim, while browsing the library shelves. While the author does editorialize a bit too much, going on about the importance of the ‘Architect’ and ‘Engineer’, it was a worthwhile read, if only to introduce me to some principles of building I’m sure to encounter in this year’s Structures class. It makes understanding loads relatively easy…though I might suggest revising his shear diagrams and perhaps updating the text to incorporate newer structural ‘marvels,’ like the Burj Dubai.
  3. The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right,  Read Aristotle and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin. Without a doubt my favorite read of the summer, and not only because I saw myself in the author’s shoes, albeit a few years younger and without a law degree (though my parents might suggest that my propensity to argue ought to’ve led to the former instead of the architectural studies that await me). As we drove up to New Haven, Rubin reminded me of the things I’d learned in Paris – to lighten up, to read what I want (be it kidlit or books on medical anomalies), to take a chance on doing something new (bikram yoga?), among other things. I’m going to buy this book and keep it on my shelf, for those times when studio gets between me and life, and Ms.Insulin isn’t there to set me straight.
  4. Unclutter Your Life in One Week by Erin Rooney Doland. A quick read, if you go straight through, and a good guide, if you take your time to apply the principles Doland proposes. I didn’t have a desk to unclutter, but her tips on keeping travel-sized shampoos for guests and having groceries delivered are jotted down in my iPhone.
  5. Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert. Recommended by Poohbear, I was a bit skeptical of this read because I’m no where close to being married, and a bit wary of my friends who have, and certainly did not want convincing otherwise. I was happily surprised. If you disregard the cheesy ending, the book is an interesting sociological/anthropological survey of marriage in Eastern and Western cultures. My most interesting take-away: why do we, in the Western world, place such a burden on our significant others, by first giving them that title, and then expecting them to be not only our best friend, but our perfect lover, business partner and child-rearing teammate, when the East acknowledges that it takes a village to not only raise a child, but sustain a union?
  6. The Global Soul: Jet Lag, Shopping Malls, and the Search for Home by Pico Iyer. I will admit it now: I did not finish this book. Gretchen Rubin tells me I will be okay. I tried, I really did, but after a while, Iyer’s excessive descriptions of chaos and the alienating feeling of being country-less, well, alienated me as a reader. As a literary proposition, the book’s writing style matches the author’s intent: to convey the disorder that results in a too-global community, the loss of identity in the vagrant soul comes through every brand-laden shopping experience and self-defining national experiment. So, a success?
  7. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I read this tome in one day, Scout’s honor. I did nothing else that day, but I finished it all in one go. Set in a universe somewhere between Tolkein and Rowling, the story is compelling in spite of its first-person narrative (something I’ve never been fond of), and I’m looking forward to hearing what happens next in this series. Gripes? A first novel, sure, but Rothfuss tries a bit too hard to create a unique universe. His invented language and sometimes over-capitalization (referring to the local university as the  University reads like a fan-fiction writer’s habit) took away from the archetypal story of a young boy who overcomes personal tragedy to harness his God-given talents.
  8. The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson. I’m right-smack-dab in the middle of this one, and Bryson is as good as ever. I probably look like a fool, because I can’t help but whisper this book to myself, checking Bryson’s citations of differences in Northern and Southern pronunciation for myself. At this point, I can’t say what kind of American accent I have, only that I certainly have an American accent.

With the exception of The Mother Tongue, which I purchased because it was on sale for only $7 (an unbelievable price for a hardback book), the rest of these literary adventures would not have been possible without the generosity of my local library – nothing like reading to your heart’s content without a paying a penny for that pleasure! Unless you’re me, and want to hold on to the books for far longer than the library intended…oops.

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A New Haven.

At this point, if you guys aren’t saying anything about my terrible sense of humor, I’m just going to keep bothering you with my shameless punning. What’s that, you say? You haven’t heard from me in ages, and in fact, you’ve been missing my puns terribly? Why, that’s kind of you! I’ll try and be more PUNctual with my posting in the future.

For now, let’s do a quick wrap up of the last six weeks: I got back from France (after a short trip to Britain – and Brighton – with the Brit).

A rocky beach that tore up my shoes, that also provides something akin to an acupuncture massage with blunt needles when you lie down instead of paying however many quid for a quaint deck chair...

Then, I hung out with my grandmother for a few weeks before she left for India, where she’s staying with my aunt and uncle. After that, I put on some disposable apparel and proceeded to cover it with blobs of yellow, red, green and cream paint. See below.

This bright yellow was carried around the living room and in the eat-in kitchen, and makes the space feel so bright and welcoming, it convinced me of the power of color much more than any design course I took as an undergraduate.

A short trip to Kentucky for a friend’s wedding…

That's Dino and Roomie's wedding, by the by. Twas a beautiful affair with plenty of dancing. So much dancing, as it were, that it resulted in a strained left calf muscle...

…and then a longer drive up to New Haven, where I’ve finally settled down in this new haven:

Ok, so that mess got cleaned up right after I took the picture, promise!

This is technically my temporary-not-temporary home. The bedroom itself won’t be mine in the long run, but I’m staying in the same apartment, just moving upstairs. Once I’m moved into the new room, and have managed to furnish and organize it, I’ll be sure to post an updated picture. But for now, you’ll have to believe me when I say my blue-green bedding and red IKEA dresser complement each other in that thrown-together-chic kind of way. I’m going for the “I liked it so I bought it” look. We’ll see how that goes – it’s a complete turn-about from the way I designed that residential interior junior year…but hopefully there’s no one grading this space!

I actually got to New Haven on Monday night in my dad’s truck, with my mom and dad in the front seat, the seat beside me piled high and the ‘trunk’ packed two-boxes high with stuff. But it all fit in the truck, and I was very impressed with that.

On Tuesday several trips to IKEA, Target and Walmart managed to cure me of this cheery attitude, when I realized that between the truck and new furniture (bed, dresser, bedside table) and whatever else I’d wind up purchasing in the next year (desk…rug…clothes) I’d never fit everything into one truck again. Oh well. Maybe there’s more culling to be done next year.

Wednesday was organizing day, and I managed to put away all of my clothes, though my books and desk supplies are still in boxes, since I don’t have shelves or a desk on which I can put these things. We snuck my studio supplies into the architecture building, where an administrator informed me that I was the only person in the history of the program to bring my own parallel board. Well, there’s one foot forward, though whether it’s the best one is TBD.

Today was my last visit with the parents, spent buying architectural supplies ($200+ worth, and that’s with a 20% discount AND without spending the $120 on a parallel straightedge), eating too much pizza at Pepe’s, a New Haven establishment, and happening upon a potential job opportunity as a French language assistant at a language institute down the street from my apartment. After bidding my parents farewell, I vegged out on my bed, exhausted after a long week.

There’s still plenty that needs figuring out before classes start on Monday: where do I get groceries (the last major grocery store in town closed down, and the Walmart is driving distance when I don’t have a car)? how does the bus system work (again, no car, and studio is a thirty minute walk away)? how broke will I be in three years (utility bills on this place jump to $300 in the winter…that’s over and above the $2250 rent)?

I’d like to document this first year at school as best as possible, for future Yalies who’re worried about what to expect both in the classroom and out. I know when I was trying to figure out what schools to apply to / which one to accept, reading student blogs made a huge difference. So what I’m trying to say is I know I won’t have much time, but I’m going to try my darndest to keep you guys posted every week!

Until next time, your faithful-yet-often-absent blogger, Amrita.

Filed under: Close to home, , , , , , , , , ,

Oh la, Loire!

France is not a very big place. It’s smaller than Texas by 8,000 square miles, but has a variety of terrain, food and accents to rival the entire United States. During my three trips to France, I got to nibble away at the expansive culture by seeing Paris (the Big City), Provence (the South), Bordeaux and Lyon (small cities), Carcassonne (almost Spain), and most recently, the Loire. Or should I say, there where many a French noble hath laid his head.

The Loire Valley is famous for two things: chateaus and wine. The Brit and I got our fill of both in the four windy days we spent there earlier this month. And we did it all without a car!

First stop, Blois.

We stayed in Blois for the first night, in a rather sketchy hotel, where the concierge insisted we were married, even if we hadn’t had a ceremony, because being in a committed relationship was the equivalent of being married…let’s not get me started on his logic (or lack thereof)…point is, Blois itself is a quaint town, with a charming castle and nice views. Not at the top of my list of places we visited, though the brick portions of the castle took me straight back to Place des Vosges in Paris, one of my favorite places in the world.

One thing Blois did well was a sound and light show that projected images directly onto the Chateau's walls. It was in French, though...so bring a translator.

On day two we left our bags in the hotel, while we hopped on a bus to see two chateaus, one more famous (and beautiful) than the other.

Ah, Chambord.

Chambord was everything I imagined it to be. Enormous. Incredibly beautiful. Drowning in history. Did you know it once housed the Mona Lisa during WWII, when the French (smartly) decided to move the Louvre’s contents to keep them away from a certain mustachioed Nazi?

Cheverny wasn’t as beautiful. Which is why I don’t have pictures. But, right outside Cheverny, the Brit and I did a quick wine tasting of the local offerings, two whites, a rosé and a red. Incidentally, before this last stay in France, I wasn’t a fan of whites or rosés…a couple of picnics in the springtime cured me of that nonsense. Rosés and whites are perfect spring picnic basket fillers.

We spent that night in Tours, in a very charming hotel, a polar opposite of the one we’d just left. Our concierge guided us to the only street open for food on a holiday, and we had one of the best meals I’ve had in France – all local food, all exquisitely prepared and presented, and accompanied with a local red. Mmm.

The next day, we wandered around Tours for a while, and the chill forced me to buy a coat. I had no choice. Eventually, we took the train out to Chenonceau, where I slightly overestimated the amount of time we’d need at the chateau. It’s quite small, but it certainly does deserve a photo. It reallywas a blustery day (I should’ve bought two coats), and I wish we could’ve stayed longer, but the chill sent us running to take the train back to Tours.

Chenonceau floats on water. Oh, and it's equally beautiful on the interior.

The next morning, the Brit and I made a fateful decision. We did not want to take the train, and we did not want to take a bus, but we did want to visit chateaus. So, we rented bikes.

I had not ridden a bike in over 11 years. My last bike was stolen when I was 10, and for every year I didn’t get a new one, my fear of falling off a bike grew exponentially, until I was convinced that the expression ‘like riding a bike’ would never apply to me. Turns out, the expression isn’t as easy as it sounds (who would’ve thunk), but after several start-stops and almost getting run over by traffic, I managed to stay (mostly) on the bike for the 50 miles (I kid you not) we rode that day.

On bike, we visited Villandry and Azay-le-Rideau. Villandry has beautifully sculpted French gardens that, in my opinion, rival those of Versailles. Azay-le-Rideau has a more quiet charm, set on water in the midst of English gardens that make you believe you’re in the middle of a fairytale, something along the lines of Beauty and the Beast, but after the Beast becomes a prince.

Sure, Villandry's chateau is nice. But the gardens are much nicer.

Okay, so in this picture, Azay-le-Rideau looks a bit more ominous than I might have described...

Did I mention we biked 50 miles to get to these two chateaus? Here’s proof.

The first part of the ride was beautiful - flat roads, green and yellow fields, blue skies dotted with white puffs of cloud...

And if you want actual proof of the distances, here’s Google to the rescue (keep in mind, these are the more direct routes…our path was a bit more meandering…). The second half of the ride was a bit more tenuous, as we were pedaling on a ridge with headwind that blew us to a stop several times…but we made it back to Tours, and after much deserved hot showers and carb-loaded dinners, we passed out in our charming cream sleigh bed.

That was the (exhausting) end of our Loire Valley trip. The next morning the Brit and I packed our bags and dashed off to Paris to grab the Eurostar to London, where I went to the beach. Sort of. But that’s a story for another post.

Filed under: All things French, Around the world, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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