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Date:2007-08-28 00:53
Subject:Keeping it simple

Things that make me happy include (a) the start of fall classes and the concomitant return of daily structure to my life; (b) Lauren Chipman's viola at the beginning of the Rentals' "Sweetness and Tenderness"; (c) finally getting around to socializing with my fellow grad students; and (d) playing beach volleyball until the sun sets on another summer and the crispness of fall begins.

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Date:2007-06-28 13:06
Subject:Regarding car overheating and views of the rain

Last weekend we headed up to New York and New Jersey to visit Alejandra and Aly's friend Danielle. It was a great weekend up until the point where our car overheated in heavy traffic on I-95 near the Delaware-Maryland border. Two hours of waiting for a tow truck ensued, followed by a two-hour drive with a very chatty driver to our mechanic in Alexandria, Va. Not the best way to end a trip, but it was yet another adventure for Team Rob & Aly.

I'm pretty excited today because it's supposed to rain in the evening. The biggest thing I dislike about our condo is that we don't have a view of the sky—I loved to go to the window during a storm and look out at the dark clouds, swaying trees, and the people running for cover on the street below. Growing up in the Midwest ensured that a window to the changeable sky is, for me, an essential part of an abode. Until we find our next place, though, I'll have to watch storms from my window at work—not a bad thing, since I have a great view of the Potomac and the Key Bridge from here.

While exploring the Car Barn (my office building) a few weeks ago, I found a walkway that led to the river-facing side of the building. I'll just say that it's pretty cool looking out over the river and the bridge from behind the pointed ears of a stone gargoyle. Here's the view.

Hope you're all doing well, folks.

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Date:2007-04-05 03:05
Subject:Domain name poll

Of the following three domain names I'm considering purchasing, which do you like best and why?


The selected domain will serve as a repository for my design portfolio, blog (covering design, higher ed, online journalism), and various projects.

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Date:2006-06-29 15:21
Subject:Drinking milk (or not)

Interesting tidbit via Wikipedia:

"Since the majority of northern Europeans and some Mediterranean Europeans have the mutation rendering them lactose-tolerant, lactose intolerance is widely regarded as a medical condition in Europe and North America."

"Since the first nations to industrialise and develop modern scientific medicine were dominated by people of Western and Northern European descent, adult dairy consumption was long taken for granted. Westerners for some time did not recognize that the majority of the human ethnogenetic groups could not consume dairy during adulthood."


"Approximately 70% of the global population cannot tolerate lactose in adulthood. Thus, some argue that the terminology should be reversed, lactose intolerance should be seen as the norm, and the minority Western European group should be labelled as having lactase persistence."

I'm lactose intolerant, and I always just assumed that I was kind of weird for not being able to drink milk past childhood. (I had also surmised that this was an Asian thing, since a lot of the Asian people I knew were in the same boat.) But I had never considered just how prevalent my "condition" was.

(Read the full Wikipedia article on lactose intolerance).

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Date:2006-06-29 01:11
Subject:Late night training

All the rain here has forced me indoors (read: away from beach volleyball) and given me the opportunity to focus on weight training. I've been going around midnight, when the gym in my building is usually empty save for a couple who seem to work out—and talk on their respective cell phones—around that time, too. I'm alternating between a night of machine work (5 minute stationary bike warmup, fly, chest press, pulldowns, row, and quads) and a night of cardio/free weights/flexibility (30 minute stationary bike, bicep curls, ab work). I'm also doing shoulder press every night to build up strength in my shoulder muscles—they've been somewhat creaky due to lots of volleyball and my shoulder injury a year and a half ago.

I'm trying to keep this up for six days straight before I hit the sand courts again this weekend. I just finished up day four, and I'm still not that sore yet. (This is probably because I'm not going to failure every night, but I'm happy starting out at a moderate level and making sure I can still drag myself out of bed in the morning.)

I'd still like to run a 5K this year, so I'll probably add some outdoor running into my routine soon. (At the very least I'm making an attempt to play doubles when I play volleyball, which makes me run a lot more than sixes.) I figure the stationary bike is at least helping me build up my stamina in the meanwhile. That and walking up the escalator at Rosslyn. (If I was a real hardass, I'd be sprinting up the Exorcist steps, too. But the humidity here has been disgusting.)

Uh, okay. I'll have a more substantive (and less boring) post next time. Cheers!

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Date:2006-06-22 01:35
Subject:Honeymoon photos

I just posted all the photos I took on my honeymoon. Enjoy (and comment)!

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Date:2006-06-14 03:19
Subject:Traveling in the second half of 2006

In lieu of a real entry tonight, I give you a tentative list of places I'm going this year:

  1. Sky Meadows State Park (Va.) for hiking.
  2. Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park (Va.) for driving/hiking.
  3. Chicago, Ill. (maybe twice?) and Crown Point, Ind. to visit the folks over Thanksgiving. Also: architecture + friends. And food.
  4. Bloomington, Ind. to teach an online journalism workshop at the IDS. Probably.
  5. Tucson, Ariz. to visit Aly's folks over Christmas. Canyon hiking, too—maybe Sedona?
  6. New York City to visit friends and eat good food. Also an excuse to indulge in some photography.
  7. Nashville, Tenn. (Vanderbilt?) to present/help organize a student online journalism conference. Maybe.
  8. Sumter, S.C. to visit Aly's aunt and uncle. Possibly a daytrip to Charleston?
  9. We've also been talking about a trip up to Niagara Falls—it's only an 8-9 hour drive! I'd like to see Adler and Sullivan's Guaranty Building in Buffalo, too. (Jess, there's a couple cool Louis Sullivan buildings in Iowa that you should check out if you get the chance!) I'll most likely write about Sullivan in my next entry; you've been forewarned.
Even though we just got back from our honeymoon about a month ago, I'm already itching to get back on the road. I suppose that's the thing to do, lest the pressure cooker of D.C. drive you nuts.

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Date:2006-06-09 15:32

Via mariamist: If you comment on this post:

1. I'll respond with something random about you.
2. I'll challenge you to try something.
3. I'll pick a color that I associate with you.
4. I'll tell you something I like about you.
5. I'll tell you my first/clearest memory of you.
6. I'll tell you what animal you remind me of.
7. I'll ask you something I’ve always wanted to ask you.
8. If I do this for you, you must post this on yours. (Well, okay, this is optional.)

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Date:2006-04-11 01:48
Subject:A letter and a philosophy of supervision

Penning a letter of recommendation is difficult, but it's good writing practice. The letter in question is for a graduate student who has been a fantastic help at work, and I was very surprised when she asked me to write a recommendation for her. It feels strange to be writing praise for someone who has—in my mind—accomplished more than I have done to date. But then I've always felt sort of weird about assigning myself a particular status or level of expertise, especially in relation to someone my age.

I treat students/interns as equals because it feels like the right thing to do. (Perhaps it's because I'm not too far from the student world; in fact, I'll reenter that world in August. It's still kind of weird supervising graduate students, though.) I won an award for my particular brand of supervision at my last job, and it's secretly (or not so secretly) one of my most treasured accomplishments. It always surprises me how often student workers or interns are relegated to doing grunt work when they could be doing much more engaging work.

Someday I'll write a book (or, failing that, a pamphlet) about the successful supervision of student workers. Here are two title candidates:

The Proper Care and Feeding of Student Workers
Interns! Interns! Interns! A Celebration of the Curious Species in Four Part Harmony

And my current favorite:

The Meek Shall (Forcibly) Inherit the Earth: How to Rise Up Against Your Superiors

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Date:2006-03-29 16:11
Subject:March 29, 2006 3:47:19 PM EST

Dear Mr. Pongsajapan,

That's all I needed to read.


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Date:2006-03-27 22:17
Subject:The anonymity of edges

I'm finding out that my favorite places tend to be at the edge of an open space. I recently had the opportunity to walk through most of Battery Park in New York, starting from the north end. The lack of sound was amazing to me, especially after coming from the subway. It was very calming to look out over the Hudson and reflect on the weekend. I will probably never be a good photographer of people – I value my inobtrusiveness too much. Landscapes and architectural details are my bread and butter, at least with my current camera. (I suspect increased zoom and image stabilization might help me branch out some more. But I digress.)

Anyway, I hadn't felt comfortable taking photos in New York up until my arrival in Battery Park. This was probably due to the number of people on the streets – there weren't enough people walking around to enjoy the anonymity of a crowd, but there were enough people for my camera to be noticed. Once I got to Battery Park, though, I pulled out my camera and started shooting in earnest. I get the same comfortable feeling standing on the shore of Lake Michigan and an outlook off Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah Mountains.

Perhaps it's the dominance of an edge that affords the visitor anonymity – the abrupt change in scenery requires people's attention to be focused on the water or the land below, and that stills observers. It's one of those cases where you can be in a crowd of people but still feel like you're having your own personal experience with your surroundings.

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Date:2006-03-02 01:12
Subject:The camera is back from the dead

Today was a good day.

I was able to repair my Canon PowerShot S400 by hand, which was nerve-wracking; however, a few minutes of cold sweat are worth it if my camera's back to normal. I'd been experiencing a weird memory error which caused the camera to occasionally reject the CompactFlash card. Sometimes reformatting the card fixed the problem, but this was always a temporary fix. The problem mostly seemed to pop up when I left my camera unused for a couple days. After a while, I stopped using my camera on a regular basis — I was frustrated by the problem and had resigned myself to looking for a new camera.

Today, I found a fix online which involved opening the camera up with a screwdriver and removing a small battery for a minute or so. I performed the surgery with slightly trembling hands — this was originally a $350 purchase, after all — and got the battery out after a few moments of confusion with the casing. It worked! (Of course, I write this without having tried the camera for a few hours. I should probably go do that now.)

All this repair work was inspired by a short photography workshop put on by my coworker Michael. I left the workshop with a number of ideas that I'll try to put into practice with my presumedly repaired camera.

There was more to today's story, but I'll save that for another post.

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Date:2006-02-14 01:01
Subject:In a mild panic about writing (again)

I need to start writing — preferably creatively! — on a regular basis. I figured I'd pose the following question to people on here who (a) currently write on a regular basis or (b) have done so in the past: How do you do it?

I finished a draft of my personal statement tonight, and it's quite choppy and uninspiring. But this is what a few months of occasional blog postings has gotten me — a penchant for turning out long sentences with dubious connections and no emotional content. I feel like I need to get back to what I used to do on the Web, which was writing short personal essays on a regular basis. Sure, it became formulaic, but at least I was able to express myself without resorting to lists. (Except for the end of my journaling career, which not coincidentally also marked the beginning of my blogging career. Lists equal laziness!)

I'm thinking about doing an incredibly productive/annoying sort of thing where I force myself take a photo and write a short, mostly unrelated paragraph of observation every day. The idea here is that something should be gained from repeating this exercise ad nauseum. Right? What's worked for you?

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Date:2006-02-12 23:04
Subject:The busy week ahead

This week, my activity level kicks into high gear:

I'm hoping to submit my CCT application by Wednesday (2/15 sounded like a nice date), so that means I have to finish my personal statement and compile all my supplemental material into a coherent package. (The supplemental package will potentially include my design portfolio and wiki stuff related to the blogging presentation I did at Salisbury University this past summer.) I also have to stop fretting over my writing sample. I've been told by a coworker that it's probably best to use a writing sample from IU when I was used to composing essays rather than use a more recent paper that's technology-related but kind of shaky. This is generally good, because it means that I won't have to heavily revise the latter paper; however, I'm wondering if the essay I'm going to use (written in fall 2000) is too old to be a valid example of my current writing ability. I'm leaning towards using it, with the [internal] understanding that I'm going to work on my essay writing skills between now and the start of graduate school. Ah, self-bargaining.

Aly and I are going to give dance lessons another try starting this week (specifically Tuesday). We went for a couple weeks last year, and thoroughly enjoyed it; however—as with most things these days—we had trouble finding enough time to practice. We've got the wedding to motivate us this time around!

My volleyball team is having a horrible season. We've gone 2-13 so far, and we have two matches left. Ugly, ugly stuff. I'm probably going to jump ship after this season and find/start another team. It's going to be kind of difficult to leave my teammates behind (it's a fascinating experience to play almost exclusively with economists who work at the World Bank), but I've just grown tired and frustrated with the losing. Playing a great game of doubles on Friday made me realize how much I missed playing volleyball at a higher level, too—it's been a long time. Anyway, the next match is Wednesday against a team I used to play for. It's going to be painful to get slaughtered at their hands. Maybe they'll readopt me next season?

The design for Higher Ed Blog Con is live. I'm still making some tweaks to it—mostly line spacing issues in CSS. We're in the process of selecting proposals for the conference, and I'm thrilled to be part of the staff. (It's my first time helping to plan a conference, and I can already tell that it's something I'll want to do again the future.) I'm helping to plan all the online discussions (scheduled chats with presenters and conference management), and it'll be very cool to finally see some of my ideas on online interaction in play.

Two more resolutions: I need to write on here more often, and I need to take more photos. I did both things today, and will link to my photos of Arlington Cemetery soon. Whew!

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Date:2006-01-25 18:42
Subject:Everything is fair ... when you're living in the city.

Getting organized has been the theme of the past few days. The modern-day miracle of hanging file folders, Web-based to-do lists, and the like have been helping me out; however, I still feel like I'm behind. I'll probably have this feeling until the wedding/honeymoon planning is finished and my CCT application has been submitted.

Tomorrow I'm going to sit in on a CCT class after work. It should be interesting, especially since I haven't attended a class since last spring. This will also be my first experience with a graduate-level class. Scary!

Luckily, I have volleyball to ease some of my stress ... or do I? My team has been pretty sketchy lately—we're all a bunch of overachievers, so we constantly out-think and berate ourselves when things aren't going well. This is not a healthy sign. I told my boss about this over lunch one day, and he responded with a spot-on observation: "That sounds ... depressing." Well, yes, it is. We're 0-6 so far this season, so we have to get it together if we want to make the playoffs. Must practice/train harder! (And stay positive, which I'm convinced is the key to solving our weird collective gloominess/sense of doom on the court.) A report on tonight's game will follow.

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Date:2006-01-15 01:33
Subject:Ringing in my twenty-sixth year

Questions of the day:

Should I go up to Frederick, MD tonight for dinner? If so, should I have tapas at Isabella's or should I have a chimichanga at Mexicali Cantina?

Decisions, decisions! Help me decide, dear readers.

Also: I am feeling slightly better. Now I just have a cough; the aches and fever are gone. Hooray for NyQuil (and the subsequent 14 hours of sleep)!

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Date:2005-12-28 11:40

On her official site, JK Rowling mentions that she plays Minesweeper as a break from writing: "Since giving up smoking I must boastfully inform you that I have become rather good and that my current best time for expert level is 101 seconds." Later, she posts a "Minesweeper update": "Just thought you might like to know that my personal best for Expert Level Minesweeper is now ninety nine seconds."

My best time is down to 80 seconds. It should go down even further once I start grad school, I'd imagine. Take that, Ms. Rowling.

I have also been unseated as the top all-time Words player by someone named "Hameron". I still own 17 of the 20 top spots, however, and will reclaim my throne soon.

Ah, the holidays.

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Date:2005-12-26 20:57
Subject:Stuck in the United terminal

The trip to the Art Institute was a success. As usual, the main reason I went there (the 1945 exhibit) wasn't that great; however, the trip was redeemed by the discovery of a permanent exhibition of Chicago-area decorative arts. This exhibit (located in the atrium (just up the stairs from the main entrance) was a fantastic complement to all the architectural knowledge I've been amassing this weekend. I also discovered that the Chicago Stock Exchange Trading Room (located in the rear of the Art Institute) was designed in part by Adler and Sullivan. I've tried to go in there before, and tried the knob again today … but no luck. Anyone know how one can enter said room?

Now I'm at O'Hare, and—like any other real trip to Chicago—my flight is delayed. Also, there is no seating, so I'm sitting on a heating grate (along with some other people) across from my gate. There is a kid in a white T-shirt amusing himself by walking cooly against the flow on the moving walkway so he stays in the same spot. Nice work, kid. Earlier, I observed a young girl in a dress carrying a fluffy bunny (not a real one) run down the moving walkway, only to run back to the start and do it again. She did this about four times, and then her dad reluctantly made her stop.

Other than the aforementioned people watching, I'm fairly ready to get on the plane and head back to DC. Anyone else stuck in an airport right now?

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Date:2005-12-26 16:44
Subject:Thoughts from Panera

I'm sitting at a Panera on the corner of Jackson and Congress in Chicago, planning the rest of my day in the city. My flight departs tonight at 8:45 p.m. CST, so I have about three hours to kill before I have to take the El to O'Hare. I've already had dim sum with my folks at Phoenix in Chinatown and a beer with Nance and her boyfriend Mark at Rock Bottom (State and Grand). After that, I headed over to the Archicenter for more lusting after architecture/design/history books and items. I came out with the AIA (American Institute of Architects) Guide to Chicago and a "virtual walking tour" CD-ROM of historical architecture in Chicago, and resisted (at least for today) to become a member and/or purchase a T-shirt to show my support. (I am, however, doing research on CAF membership from my seat here at Panera.)

I believe the plan is to go to the Art Institute to check out the following two exhibits: "1945: Creativity and Crisis, Chicago Architecture and Design of the World War II Era" and "Zero Gravity: The Art Institute, Renzo Piano, and Building for a New Century." They've got extended hours for the holidays—well, Dec. 26-30, anyway—so I can hang out there until 6 p.m. (and not have to lug my bag around, due to the modern marvel that is the coat check!) Then it's off to O'Hare and holiday airport madness. I'm hoping I can make the last Metro train tonight when I get back to Arlington. If not, it's cab city.

Cheers, fellow travelers!

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Date:2005-12-25 01:07
Subject:CAF tour and why Chicago rules

I went on the "Architecture of Culture and Commerce" tour on Friday, and I came away convinced that Chicago is the greatest city in the United States. Photos can be found over at my Flickr account. Since the tour kept moving, I wasn't able to take very good shots. I plan on going back Monday afternoon to take some better photos, and I'm also seriously considering becoming a Chicago Architectural Foundation member. Mmm ... benefits.

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