May 30, 2012

Mexico, the Taste of Oklahoma

After we got up and around and packed up the car, grandma took us out to Enrique's. Enrique's Mexican food is a small, family-owned restaurant which makes up about half of the Ponca City airport terminal on the edge of the town. The founder was actually Cuban, a background which is only now coming forward in menu items such as fried plantains and Cuban soups and other fish dishes. It's probably the only restaurant within 300 miles which serves fried plantains and makes me really wonder where in the world they get their food supplies in a town which is not even served by an interstate. The food is fantastic, the residents of Ponca really seem to appreciate it, and we always go whenever we're in town.

Anyway, we took off after lunch, heading up to our other grandma's house in Blanchard, and promptly got lost via the GPS. The problem is that GPS can't locate her address, but it thinks that it can, so we get totally lost, and waste a lot more time than if I'd just taken the route I always take.

But we did find it eventually, and visited with grandma for awhile before heading across the street to the new bare bones mexican take out place for some tacos and tamales.

faded glory

For a less cryptic and poorly written version of what we did yesterday-

We got up once again at 10am, which continues to flabbergast grandma- "The day's half over!" and she made us all pancakes for breakfast. Uncle Bob was having his surgery, and with Velma still unable to walk without a cane, she wanted someone there who could help get uncle bob from the car into the house, as he would still be a little doped up from the general anaesthetic. So we chilled out at Brace's Bookstore for awhile (I'm so happy it's still open. I go every year and when I spent my summers here as a kid, I'd spend several hours there every day) until we got the call.

Turns out we were more useful babysitters than aides. Uncle Bob walked into the house just fine and furthermore, let out the corgis for us to wrangle and to grab the mail to distract us, so there was a great commotion at the door to the garage. Tay and I are trying to slip the leashes around the excited jumping dog's necks, I'm dropping the mail all over Dottie, and Bob slips inside and sits himself down in front of the TV.

And then Velma needs to get the prescription filled so she and grandma go off to Wal-Mart, which is known for its reliable and speedy service. I figure its going to be at least an hour, so we break out the cards and I get to work on being a sore loser at many hands of Idiot. Uncle Bob naps in his chair and I occasionally peek over at him.

An hour later, they get back and we take off for the Wentz Pool, armed with towels, a pool noodle, and a beat-up nerf football. Visiting Ponca, I occasionally have the feeling that medieval peasants must have felt, squatting in the ruins of Imperial Rome. There are still many places in Ponca which echo the wealth and opulence of the 30's and 40's town of oil barons and military men, and Wentz pool is one of them. It was built back in 1930 by Lew Wentz, an wealthy industrialist who donated the lands where a golf course, summer camp, and Olympic pool were built for the city.

The pool is quite beautiful- one passes through small castellated stone towers and crosses a lawn of stone cabins for the camp before arriving a huge grand stair covered in mosaic tiles between two huge stone pavilions overlooking the pool. Down the steps, where people lay out in the sun, the Olympic sized pool deck is surrounded by elegant stone railings and overlooks a picturesque view of lake Ponca in the distance. The old changing rooms and shower rooms, now closed, spiral around the base of the pool and used to have big peek windows into the water. It's a place that could easily accommodate hundreds of swimmers, but only a few dozen were there. The concessions pavilion didn't even have a shaved ice machine.

It was actually a lot of fun to play keep away with the nerf football and to tan on the steps, well worth the $2 cost of entry.

Anyway, we rushed back from the pool and I sequestered myself in grandma's office for a phone interview with Luxmark architects (not their real name). This was actually a second interview. The first interview was with the head of their LA office, which was more of a getting to know you, while this interview was much more directed to the particular internship. It's kind of hard to say how it went- I think I did a good job of conveying my abilities and interests, but then again, I'm really not very good on the phone. Actually, I've never called anyone more awkward on the phone than I am.  So we'll see. They said that they would let me know in a week or two.

Grandma brought us back ribs and brisket from Head Country BBQ, which, for the record, is the best BBQ I've ever had, with the ribs easily beating out Pappy's in St.Louis.

After dinner, we all went out to a late night adventure of Wal-Mart shopping, then got ice cream sundaes at Braum's. I threw the idea out there, Tay leapt on it, and grandma said she wouldn't turn it down. (Guess where I got my sweet tooth?)  Braum's unfortunately only exists within a half-day drive from their dairy farm near Oklahoma city. Their dairy is really cheap and fresh- we got single dip ice cream sundaes for less than $2 with ice cream far superior to Dairy Queen, Wendy's, McD's, whatever.

After the ice cream, we 'dragged Grand',  (we might call it 'cruising' today) which is what grandma and other teens her age used to do in high school. Grand is not the high street it used to be, but the 20s architecture and store fronts still lend an air of the time.

May 29, 2012

The Tale of the Piggy

O weary travelers three,
crossed o'er the dusty plains
from the land of the river city
with cherry limeades on their brains.

At dusk arrived to a hero's refrain,
as all prodigal grandchildren are,
and lo they rode the mexican train,
although they didn't ride it far.

For none may win through skill or guile
as Fate alone makes piggy-tails,
only for the hours away to while,
and easier than going to garage sales.

And comes the morn when all must pause
and remember those who came before
with blossoms lacking nature's flaws,
purchased from the Hobby Lobby store.

Go we hence to that shady grove,
shaded by majestic petroleum tanks,
and in the unyielding ground drove
undying branches in acts of thanks.

And while the flower may salve the soul,
And the grandson may drive the car,
The sun will take a heavy toll,
but a cherry limade goes far.

In the house of the Youngest Case, 

A hamburger feast is laid
before these travelers of rapid pace
and for awhile waylaid.

Six hours did they spend at Mexican train
and even the greatest of them did fail
since fate alone over power or brain
determines the piggy-tail.

And so a hot new day dawns,
And Braces bookstore calls, 
And we are used as medical pawns,
To keep post-op Bob from falls.

At last the crew finds cool relief
in the hills o'erlooking the lake,
in a pool of grandeur beyond belief,
where much did they recreate.

May 27, 2012

A few days in St. Louis

We'd planned to leave Chicago around 2, and since it takes about, what, five hours? to get back to St. Louis, we ended up leaving around 2:30 and getting into St.Louis around seven hours later. Saori had an interview the following day so she wanted to get back early, so we ended up swinging by the school so she could print out her portfolio and resumes.

The next day, Saori and I both had interviews in the morning for different jobs. Mine was at a very small firm, a five person office which focused on residential building. Let's call them Domus. Since the office was so small, I got interviewed by everyone in the office at the conference table. They seemed impressed, but they let me know that they were looking at other applicants as well and would let me know sometime next week. It would be great to spend the summer in St.Louis, honestly.

Then we all went to go eat ribs at Pappy's and had the shortest wait time ever- maybe less than 30 minutes to get to the order window. Good stuff. We went back home and crashed into a food coma again. Tay and I went out for a drink at sunset at Moonrise bar, and then swung by to grab Saori to take her out to Fox and Hound pub for a drink.

Saturday, we got up late, and hit the outlet mall again since Tay needed pants. Saori also picked up a really pretty sun dress.

This morning, we loaded up the car for our road trip, said goodbye to suki, moved my car out of the garage, and tay tried to move his car back into the garage....and nothing. Something screwed up with the starter system. The lights come on, but the key turns and there's one click from the engine and nothing happens. Tay had AAA so he called them up and they quickly sent a guy out with a battery. He took a look and decided that we'd need to get it towed to a mechanic. The problem, as we quickly discovered, is that all the mechanics were closed for the weekend, and furthermore, would remain closed for monday (memorial day). So we figured Tay could borrow my car until the following weekend to get back and take car of the car stuff. In the meanwhile, we still have a friend's car we're watching for the break.

Anyway, we hit the road around noon, stopped for Braums (finally! Missed it!) and made it to Ponca City, Oklahoma.

May 26, 2012

Chicago- Nightlife

I'd highly recommend a visit to cloud gate (the bean) and the faces installation in Millenium park at night. The faces installation glows bright red with the water misting around it, and in the bean, you see reflected the night skyline of Chicago.

We also took in a bar with a live band. Green Mill is a very well known bar/venue a little farther north of the downtown, a short walk from the Lawrence stop on the red line. We arrived a bit late to the set, but we stuck it out and eventually migrated, table to table, closer to the stage as people left as the night wore on.

The performers were really amazing- it was Alphonso Ponticelli and Swing Gitan, a gypsy jazz band in the vein of Django Reinhardt. The main players were two violinists, the lead guitar (Alphonso), a backup guitar, and a double bass. They were occasionally joined by a woman vocalist who sang in French, and a pianist. They were really good. Especially the guitarist and the two violinists. The speed at which they played was phenomenal and a show in itself, fingers, arms, and hands flying in a blur, especially after a bottle or two of Schlitz beer.

The venue was great- it was built something like a hundred years ago, the bar was really fun and it retained a feeling from the roaring 20s of Chicago. Definitely an older crowd though, so watch out for that, although it worked to our advantage as the band played until 1, and couples started leaving. Lot of fun.

Chicago - What to Eat

Taylor was our culinary guide to Chicago, as the primary epicure tourist in the group (although all of us are more than happy to do the food tour of wherever we go).

Naturally, the first stop was deep dish pizza at Pizano's, about a mile and a half walk north of our hotel. Felt very casual and friendly local Italian place- a narrow room with a bar and a game on the tube along one wall, red-checker covered tables along the other half, sepia portraits on the wall above the tables. The kind of place where it is not a great stretch of the imagination to see as a mafia front, where a whispered word to the wait staff and a knowing nod lead to meeting rooms in the back with Rich Eddie, Thumbs, and Tony Banana.

Actually, you have a lot of time to imagine as deep dish pizza takes about 30 minutes to bake. Best to wait with a beer or something to munch on.

The following morning, we decided to go with another guidebook recommendation and visited Xoco a Mexican place run by a celebrity chef. We split fresh hot churros and coffee, and I got the chilequiles, which were excellent. The churros were the best churros I've ever had too, with a nice crunch and not an overwhelming sweetness.

Lunch was at a place which I'd been before, many years ago in high school, Portillo's. If Chicago was a theme park, this would be its food court. Four or five counters where you order- each one differently specialized- this one for alcohol, this one for hot dogs and sandwiches, this one for desserts. We all got chicago-style hot dogs. Not bad, but nothing exceptional either. Tay also got to cross off an Italian beef sandwich on his list of Chicago things to try.

The following morning we started with coffee and donuts at Duncan Donuts, because we wanted to get a fast start to the day, and then we hit a last pizza joint, Lou Malnati's, which felt a bit more generic. I suspect that this place started as a hole in the wall somewhere, and then expanded out to a lot of locations. It had a kind of Applebees feel to it, and while the food was good, it wasn't exceptional.

Chicago- Getting there and Getting Around

I don't recommend it.

It took us two and a half hours just to clear the suburbs. That's mostly idling in traffic, and also because the suburbs of Chicago stretch so far its possible to get authentic Boston clam chowder on one end and visit the first Starbucks store in the other.

The last time I was in Chicago, I took the megabus there. It picked me up in downtown St.Louis and dropped me in downtown Chicago, with a pit stop, good views, and free wifi and power outlets all the way there. If you're traveling alone, you'll end up spending more on gas for your car than the price of a round trip ticket.

Here's my advice on parking in Chicago: don't do it.

Parking is so expensive, its cheaper to simply hire people to carry you from place to place on their backs. Depending on your parking garage and duration, it's cheaper to simply buy people's cars on the street and abandon them at your destination. In all seriousness, parking for one of our cars for a total of 48 hours was more expensive than a round trip bus ticket to St.Louis. That's not even factoring in gas. I think once we factor in gas, and the other car we took to Chicago, it would have been cheaper for three of all to shelled out the $50 for megabus tickets. We didn't even drive around in the city.

Oh well, we learn. Slowly.

The loop and areas nearby are exceptionally walkable, and are really best experienced by the pedestrian. It's a great city to walk through, with the canyons formed by the towers of brick, glass, and metal, to pass through the clanking shade of the elevated train tracks, to be tempted by the wafting scent of deep dish pizza being baked, and to be part of the pedestrian city. Someone once commented that there's ten times as many people walking around Chicago as there are in St.Louis, and that New York has ten times as many people walking around as in Chicago.

But Chicago is also pretty big and walking can really wipe you out. Which is why I recommend

the 'L' trains
I don't know why they're called the L trains, because the red line is definitely not 'L'-ivated inside the loop. However, the elevated trains are convenient, frequent, and relatively cheap. We got a 24 hour pass which was about five bucks, and we used the train about five trips or so. It's quite enjoyable to stomp around the ancient steel and wood board structures, and to slowly shriek through the city above the streets, peeking in windows and taking in architectural details.

May 25, 2012

quick updates

Got back from Chicago last night. The basic itinerary:

Monday-  Saori and I drove to Bloomington to visit Tay. We get in in the early afternoon, go for a walk and out to dinner.
Tuesday- We drove to Chicago, parked, got settled into the hotel, and walked the miracle mile to a recommended deep dish pizza place. Crash at the hotel after that. I walk around near the hotel at night and take photos.
Wednesday- Up early to catch a train to Mexican breakfast at Xoco, followed by a visit to the Shedd aquarium and then on to the contemporary art museum. Dinner of Chicago hot dogs and then we picked up a bottle of wine and played cards at the hotel until we left to go listen to Gypsy jazz at the green mill.
Thursday- quick coffee and donut and a few hours at the Art Institute, focusing on American modern art, then a last deep dish pizza and finally, we got on the road back to St.Louis. Took us about two hours to get out of the city with traffic. We left around 2:30 in the afternoon, and it took us about six and a half hours to get back. Ridiculous. Never driving to Chicago again.
Friday- this morning, Saori and I had interviews, and Tay hopped between us as we each had interviews at different places.

May 21, 2012

On the road again

Last night, I hosted a white sangria and cards night. It was kind of a whim thing that we only advertised on facebook around noon, so relatively short notice. It was a good excuse to get the apartment really cleaned up and straightened up, even though as I was joking with Saori, probably only one person would show up.

Actually, two people responded with "yes" on the facebook event list, although the rule of Facebook events is that "yes" means "maybe" and "maybe" means "no." So I was quite surprised when we ended up hosting about eight people, including our downstairs neighbor, Toly, who ended up showing a few of us how to play a Russian card game called дурак (idiot). So the night ended up with Toly, me, Saori, and Ryohei, a Japanese basketball player, playing the Russian card game until about 1am.

We'd made about two and a half wine bottles of white sangria and the group pretty much killed it, and I definitely helped. I used a Chablis base with a muscato mix and the wine was very floral- with the fruit- it almost smelled like an expensive soap. Taste was pretty good of course.

Anyway, this morning, we cleaned up, packed, and drove to visit my brother in Bloomington, Indiana. We're going to spend the night here and then head up to Chicago for a bit before swinging back down to St. Louis.

May 19, 2012


I'm beginning to worry I may be stuck in St. Louis without a job for the summer. While this is not a terrible thing in an of itself, it has severe repercussions as far as my wallet and future student debt goes.

I havn't given up all hope- there's still a shred of hope that next week, I'll find out that I got an internship someplace. And perhaps the offer will be delivered on a magical unicorn too.

Today was a slow, easy day. I ran with Saori in the morning, picked up the living room a bit, bought more white sangria ingredients, and helped Freda take care of her final storage unit stuff before dropping her off at the airport. It makes me sad that I might not see her again for a long time, since she's going to study abroad my final semester.

I think I will come back for graduation in the spring, through. It's just so freaking pleasant. Plus, the cool hats the graduate students get to wear.

What is not cool and pleasant is this apartment. Today's high was 97. Inside, because we're trying to not run the A/C, it got up to 88.5. That's pretty warmish.

Tonight, we went over to Dave's place for movie night, and finally settled on Brazil. Every time I see it, I feel like the United States edges ever closer to that dystopian world. If you really look at it, everything in that bureaucratic system is right and proper. Everything is documented, mistakes are followed up and dealt with, and they're winning the war on terrorism. It's just a soulless and inhumane place. I'm actually waiting for republicans to introduce the idea of having convicts pay for their own investigation, interrogation, and incarceration.

Let us Build an Architecture of Love

Today was a long, busy day.

We got up early and caught a bus into campus to see the architecture commencement ceremony. As usual, there is the university-wide graduation, and a separate architecture ceremony. Apparently, the commencement speaker for the university-wide event was the author of Mother Goose and Grimm and his speech was a riot- my friends said people were tearing up with laughter.

The robes here are really nice. At ASU, you get these burgundy/maroon gowns which are made of the cheap shiny material they use to make disposable table cloths. Saori pointed out that a large group of people wearing them look like a bunch of cockroaches. The Wash U robes are mostly rentals, much higher quality. The fabric hexagonal hats they wear are also pretty awesome. Actually, in graduation, I'm mostly looking forward to wearing one of those hats.

The setup for commencement was very sweet- a bunch of white folding chairs on the main lawn in the allee of massive oak trees, with brookings hall in the background. With all the wealthy parents in town dressed up and the tent with free refreshments, it really felt like a wedding. Saori and I sat with our friends in a row towards the back with good shade and cheered and clapped for everyone as they graduated and for the speakers. The undergraduate speaker was a student who gave a rambling speech really about not much. A bit to studied and self-aware, I thought, but not bad.

Linda Jia gave the graduate commencement speech- all the speakers were voted by the students, which is cool- and he spoke about the great experience of school and the necessity for an architecture based on love. Zeuler, my studio professor, gave the faculty speech, which was brief and heartfelt, and the president of Trivers associates, a local firm, talked about the value of renovating old buildings in cities.

It was a really nice ceremony overall, with free sodas and water and snacks served throughout the ceremony. Afterwards, everyone lingered in the dappled lawn, posed for photos, and chatted with professors, family, and friends.

Saori and I were invited to a picnic in forest park, so we gladly accepted and wandered over. Shu's family and Anna's family and some of Helen's family had laid a spread of Pappy's barbecue, watermelon, fine cheeses, wine, beer, and champagne, and we joined them for awhile for a picnic and conversation on the grass by the lake.

It was a lovely day and a lovely time, and I really would like to do this for my graduation as well.

We took the metro back to our neighborhood, stopping only for the liqour store where Saori got a bottle of saki and I got a pick-your-own six pack. Lately, I've realised I've been drinking a lot of beer (well, maybe not so much but 2-3 beers a day) which is a lot for me, and I want to cut that down, so I'm starting with limiting myself to a beer a day. Of course, we are also in the midst of celebrations so I'm not too hard on myself. Once things settle down for the summer, I should probably stick with a beer a day or less. To help with this, I'm attempting to buy really good, expensive beers, so I'm less tempted to just throw one back.

Anyway, walked home, and then we both crashed for a few hours, exhausted from the sun and all the walking. I got up finally and went for a 30 minute run, and then Saori made us a lovely dinner of salad and leftover pizza I swiped from the Luxmark information session. Still no word from them, but I'm hopeful for monday.

Tonight, we were just bushed. Too much socialising and partying has drained us.

May 18, 2012

A day of Shopping

This morning, after sending a Thank-you email to Constant at Luxmark for the interview, Saori and I headed out to the outlet mall for potential-professional-wear. I was looking in particular for a blazer. I don't even know why we bothered with the Gap outlet or the Old Navy outlet, since we ended up spending about an hour in the Banana Republic outlet. I actually found an amazing deal on a really nice cut blazer- $80 for a blazer which normally sells for over $220. I also bought some great fitting pants and a new tie.

If I had a backyard strip mall, Banana Republic outlet would definitely be there, right next to the Orange Julius/Dairy Queen combined store.

We went straight to a friend's violin recital, which is incredibly impressive given that he was an architecture student in his last semester of undergraduate. I've tried to make time to do things I really care about (people take time to run and train for marathons, practice guitar and violin, etc) but it always seems to slip into me spending way too much time in studio.

Came home, applied to another job, napped a bit.

Afterwards, I picked up Chuck and Hiep, and Chuck treated us all to dinner of hotpot and Chinese buffet, which is actually one of the best buffets I've ever had. Actually, the food wasn't bad and the hotpot was pretty good.

We talked about the scariest places in our lives, and of course, I had to bring up the creepy bedroom under the roof in my grandma's house, with the door at the back of the closet which opens to the inky, stuffy darkness of the attic/insane evil of the stellar void.

Day of Trials

Today was a day of trials.

In preparation for today's interview, Saori and I stayed up late last night, tweaking portfolios, ironing our shirts, and practicing our interview questions. We asked each other a lot of really hard questions such as, "what are your strengths as a designer?" and "why do you want to work at Luxmark? [made up firm name]"

I got up at 8, dressed in a suit I had last worn to a funeral, put on the nice tie and shoes, and headed out to school. At studio, I printed out a new portfolio on nice paper, trimmed it, stapled it, and headed over to the career center in the student union where our interviews with Luxmark were scheduled. 

I had an interview scheduled with Constant [also not his real name] who was one of the principals of this 1000 person firm, who apparently wanted to talk to me personally after seeing my work samples I submitted.

It was my first real job interview, actually so I was a little nervous, but I felt prepared and I knew what my strengths as a designer were and I had a few questions ready, and I was actually quite curious to see how my portfolio would be received. It was a win-win situation for me regardless, unless I totally screwed up the interview early on.

I think the interview went pretty well, actually. Constant was very nice, very talkative, and our conversation naturally drifted between my portfolio and the works in it, work the firm had done, what they were looking for, etc. It was much more of a conversation, and much less of a grilling I was expecting. At the end of the interview, which was about thirty minutes long, Constant said that once had seen my work he was struck by the fact that I was approaching architecture differently than other people's portfolio's he'd seen, and that he was very impressed with the work. It was very gratifying to hear this from a principal from a major architecture company.

Did I get the internship? I don't really know. My gut instinct is that they're primarily scouting for future potential, and that while I might have impressed, they may or may not have a position for which I'm ideal.

Anyway, it was a great experience for interviewing. Saori also interviewed with them, and we'll probably hear back from them within a few days/a week I'd imagine.

After our interviews and changing into regular clothes after shedding our suits, I drove over to my friend Hiep's apartment to take him to a driving test. He'd taken it the day before in his roommates car, but failed it. His roommate, Dew, had patiently explained all the tips and tricks to passing, but was exasperated when he found out Hiep had failed. "You never told me about the speed limit!" Hiep replied. Since Dew took off yesterday to see his sister, I volunteered my Prius.

It was a trial getting to the place. Hiep thought I knew where it was, and he didn't really remember how to get there, so we drove halfway to the city one before he realized it was the wrong one, and then we played iphone research as he attempted to figure out where the hell this place was while I battled rush hour traffic. "Oh shit," Heip said, as he worked the iPhone, "the last test is at 4:30". I glanced at the clock on the dash- 4:05. It wouldn't have been so bad if either one of us had any idea of where this place was.

We did find it eventually, and with enough time remaining for Hiep to make a practice parallel park and turning the car on, off, parking, etc. (there are few different things about driving a Prius). Anyway, he did pass the test this time. ("I drove twenty miles an hour! So hard!") so that was good, as he really needs to get his license before taking his parents on a cross country trip and renting a car etc. And he's on a student visa, so he's been jumping through a lot of bureaucratic hoops lately.

Saori needed to drop some stuff off at school, so I tagged along in the early eavning. I was just going to stay in the car, but Saori ran back, laughing, saying that there was David, beer, and popcorn inside. The Year End Show for the architecture school is going on, which is basically an exhibition of all the graduating masters and undergrads's work. This was the 'soft opening' which involved beer and popcorn. The popcorn came from a forlorn looking rental circus popcorn popper. The beer was Shlafly Hefe from a keg, tapped by an equally forlorn looking friend of ours, David. Forlorn, because there was nobody else there. "It's not terrible," he said, "so far, I've had seven boxes of this popcorn and four cups of beer." So we sat down and chatted for awhile over free beer and popcorn before we wandered around to check out the year end show exhibits, which were hung in Steinberg like white paper coffins.

Then, when we got home, we went for a run. We're starting slow for Saori- 1 minute running followed by 2 minutes of walking, alternating for 30 minutes, but that's just the first week and it gets more rigorous from there. After our joint workout, I ran my own session for 30 minutes. (1 minute of running followed by 0 minutes of walking, alternating for 30 minutes).


May 16, 2012


Monday, I took Suki in and got her another lion cut for the summer season. Every time I take her in, I get a different cut. This time, they trimmed down the mane but left the completely fluffy tail for the full length of the tail. She has lost weight, she's this surprisingly compact velvety fur bag, and being old, she has a lot of folds of skin between her arms and body, and along her back.

After writing so derisively about my lack of attention from architecture firms, I found out today that I have two strong leads- an interview tomorrow morning with one major national/international firm specialising in high end retail, and that I am competing with one or two other people for a job in New Orleans. The corporate job could be anywhere from London, Shanghai, NY, LA, or Dallas. If either one of them works out, I'll have to figure out what to do with Suki and if I want to sublet the apartment (if I even can).

In other news, I just found out that my old ex-girlfriend Jen finally got married- actually quite a bit later than I once imagined. Saw a nice looking desert wedding photo on FB.

May 14, 2012

An Open Letter to Architecture Headhunters

 Directors of Human Resources, Firm Principals, Vice-Presidents, and Headhunters:

This madness must stop.

While I am flattered with your many offers of employment and attention, this insanity must cease. I have told you all time and time again that I will consider your offers IN THE ORDER I RECEIVED THEM and will get back to you all in as timely a manner as possible. But this constant violation of my personal life in your pursuit of me will get you nowhere.

In the past 48 hours, I have received no less then four edible arrangements of a dozen chocolate dipped strawberries bearing offers of employment, twelve courier delivered invitations (with attached plane tickets), and a singing telegram from Foster & Partners.

Not to mention the dozens of firm principals lining outside my door trying to make an appointment. It was like a global AIA convention on my front lawn, and the neighbours were complaining. I'm just an architecture student, for crying out loud, and not even graduated.

And you, HOK, sending the venerable Mr. Obata to my door with the keys to the company Lexus, that was just low. I felt terrible about sending him away empty handed.

It's just a summer internship, so I really don't see why so many of you felt the need to create new divisions within your offices for me to head up. And while changing the firm name to Alec, Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill would indeed be "ASOM (awesome!)" as you cleverly pointed out in your offer, I'm not sure its a prudent decision based on my summer employment timeframe.

And can someone please tell Shigeru Ban to take down whatever he is building in my driveway with the cardboard tubes? Maybe Mr. Ito, while you are here, you can tell him, because my Japanese is terrible.

Please stop calling. I've changed my phone number and set up a new email address. There's not enough parking here as it is, so the gift cars you keep sending are becoming really problematic, and it's really irritating.

If you really want me in your offices to design for you, respect my privacy and give me some space. I will keep your information on file, and if something changes, I will get back to you.

In the meanwhile, leave me alone.

Alec Perkins, LEED AP

May 13, 2012

The Blazer Sun

Got a late start today on account of the asado party last night. We met a bunch of friends at a classmate's house and had grilled steaks, sausages, grilled provelone, corn on the cob, french bread, grilled asparagus, macaroni salad, and everything was delicious and washed down with beer. Our friend from studio was hosting it, and we were insanely jealous of his two bentwood Eames chairs, which are actually really great to sit in.

Interesting trivia point- Charles Eames was a St.Louis native, and actually went to Wash U architecture school before being thrown out/leaving prior to his meeting Ray.

Anyway, that was a lot of fun and we drank and talked and sat by the fire pit late into the night until we all went to Par Bar nearby. I really don't see the charm of the place- its small, cramped, kind of a bro hangout, and really the only things going for it is its relatively white collar/graduate student clientele and it's walkable proximity.

So we got up slow today. Once up, we struck out for the mall to search for blazers.

I have a nice suit, but the suit jacket looks like I stole it from the suit. We both needed nice blazers to wear on review days, to dress up a little bit, and for potential interviews. I'm looking for something that I can wear with a tie but also wear with jeans. The go-to navy blue blazer, basically, although I'm looking more at black since I'm in the monochromatic field of architecture.

We hit Gap, Banana Republic, Nordstrom, Nordstrom Rack, J Crew, Macy's, Urban Outfitters, and even H&M. H&M had some really cheap blazers, but they were total crap. They looked so cheap, when I tried them on, I felt so low that I almost bought them.

It seems to me that most of the blazers I've looked at fall into two categories- the cheap blazers ($50-$150) are styled to be worn with tee shirts, are of abominable quality and of cheap material and frequently are styled to look edgy or urban or contemporary or whatever. They all say to me "low ranking thug".

The other category of blazers are the pure business blazers, and they're priced accordingly. Beautiful material, immaculately cut and finished, often as boring and doudy and big as a 1980's IBM computer and for about the same price. The cheap blazers are made by labels with names like "American Raggs", but these are designed by "Joseph Abboud" or "Hugo Boss." The median price for these guys is about $300. Browsing for the cheap type, you're next to racks of tee shirts and polos. These ones are located in the part of the store where clerks who dress more nicely than you did at own wedding approach you and ask you if you have been helped yet with a kind of attitude and look that make you feel like you've been caught stealing hotel towels.

There's really very little between these two extremes, as I've discovered. I'm looking for a slim cut blazer around $75-$100 which is not a tee shirt blazer and of decent material. The Gap had a nice blazer for around $100 which I considered, and Nordstrom rack also had a nice Calvin Klein blazer for 150 which had really really nice suiting. It really is an investment so I shouldn't cheap out, but I want to make the right choice. I didn't end up buying anything today, so I may head out to the outlet mall either tomorrow or sometime later this week.

May 11, 2012

things to do

I'm going to take the time to write down my broad summer goals since by the time school rolls around again in the fall, I'm probably going to need a laugh.

  • I need to finish my Design Thinking book, which means I need to do the slow and painful thing of actually documenting all my sources. And it still needs a conclusion. "Make them weep" was my instructors exact words for that class.
  • Make Rhino and grasshopper my go-to tools. I actually want to revise my grasshopper tower that I designed for the optimisation class.
  • Website. I have a lot of projects that I'm proud of, academic and otherwise, and I kind of want to showcase them in a format that lets you navigate from book projects to studio work to competitions in an easily understood format. I just got a CargoCollective account although I haven't done anything with it yet.
  • Get a job. A paying job would be nice. Actually, I wouldn't even mind volunteering for a good cause.
  • As far as school goes, I need to start thinking in architectural terms of what my degree project is going to be like, its still disturbingly vague right now.
  • Get some exercise. Seriously. 
  • Meet up with family- there's a major family reunion and a wedding coming up.
I got a head start just cleaning up the apartment this morning with Saori. Feels good to have that done, but now I just feel super lazy. 

May 10, 2012

recipe for white sangria

A Recipe for White Sangria

2 green apples
3 bartlett pears
4 oranges
2 lemons
1 big jug of cheap 'Rhine' wine
1 bottle of cheap moscato

Wash and slice fruit into thin pieces with skin on. Place into a large container. Cover with jug wine and moscato. Add a cup of Cointreau. Stir, and let sit refrigerated for at least 36 hours- longer is better, but sangria reaches peak at around 3 days.  Serve over ice with a splash of ginger ale.

Saori and I made a huge batch up for Adam's party last night- we ended up getting the jug of wine instead of a box because we wanted something that we could transport the sangria in to Adam's place. So we took the terrible wine, transformed it with fruit and time, and rejugged it, and threw the whole thing in my backpack along with a 12 pack of ginger ale cans.

Neither of us wanted to be the designated driver, so we took the bus. The jug of sangria plus all the soda plus the freeze packs made the backpack pretty heavy, but it also contributed the fun of pulling out a complete white sangria package when we finally got to the party. This one was surprisingly time, actually. Took a long time to really get going, but by midnight, the place was swinging and it was fantastic. The last party I was at Adam's was actually broken up by the police. This one was not as crowded or wild, but still a lot of fun with much dancing and drinking.

Saori and I bowed out early, around 1:30, as the party was reaching it's peak, since we needed to catch the last bus of the night back home and avoid the 30 minute walk in the middle of the night.

I was up again at 8, not terribly hung over, and went to school to punch out my final work for studio. 

May 7, 2012

48 hours after review

I'm still in a kind of post-presentation haze.

I presented last, which is kind of a showcase position as most studio reviews try to end on a high note, so I was pleased to have been selected as the closer. The other nice thing about it is that your nerves keep you on edge the entire day so after you present, you're done and you dont have to struggle to stay awake through the other reviews. It's not a criticism of the other projects, its just the fact that after four hours of sleep in two days, the simple act of sitting becomes a fight to stay awake, regardless of what is going on. 

After my review, I carried my stuff back up stairs, went home, and passed out for about four hours. I'd wanted to go out with my classmates and drink after everyone had had a nap, but only Freda was up for it, so we grabbed a beer at a bar in central west end, Brennan's Second Floor. It's a cigar bar, but the smoke was really not bad and its a very nicely scaled place. After a drink, we drove to Wal-Mart and I bought a fan and some ingredients for white sangria since its becoming that time of the year.

I dropped Freda off at her place and went back home to crash for another four hours. In the morning, I brought some stuff to Saori (who had basically been working in studio nonstop like a crazy person), took some photos of my models, and went over to Zeuler's place with my classmates.

Zeuler, our studio instructor, had invited us over for cookies and ice cream and he also served fresh mint tea and coffee. He has a beautiful apartment not far from campus, with lots of art, ceramics, music and bent plywood furniture. After a few hours of conversation we split up and made plans to meet up that night.

I came back to studio and helped Saori set up some lasercut files before heading back home to clean up. I met back in studio after making some macaroni and cheese and we carpooled out to three sixty, which is a really cool rooftop bar in downtown with a great view of the arch and the river. We were late, and as it was sunday, they kicked us out at 11, so we trucked it back to Moonrise in the loop.

It was a beautiful night, and our studio group grew and expanded to include some other friends and significant others, and we sat, and chatted, and laughed and drank and it was great. (I had one beer at the first bar, and one beer and one gin tonic at the moonrise, but sleep deprivation has a multiplier effect on alcohol.) I stopped by studio to see how Saori was doing, but I was too tired and too drunk to be any help, so I caught a ride home and slept for another four hour stretch.

Saori woke me up around seven to have me come and pick her up so she could shower and change and work at home for a bit before her presentation today. In a groggy haze, I drove to school and back, and mostly napped while she showered and worked. We got back to school around ten for her presentation and I basically hopped around studio reviews all day.

May 3, 2012

On Luck

There are some people who think that luck is a toss of the die, pure random happenstance.

This is not really helpful since it suggests just waiting around, not doing anything in particular, waiting for luck to strike.

A more useful definition of luck I heard a few years ago defined luck as "when preparedness meets opportunity." It's lucky to win the lottery, but you have have to prepared by buying a ticket first. Or, to be more proactive- it's lucky to land a job, but it what happens when you are prepared to seize an opportunity that presents itself.

You can't control opportunity, but you can control preparedness. When a pilot makes a 'lucky' landing on the Hudson without tearing the plane to shreds and killing everyone, it's not random chance as much as it was a cool head and years of training and experience coming into play. There was an opportunity to save everyone, and the pilot had the preparedness to capitalize on the opportunity.

In fact, the more prepared you are, the more opportunities you can seize. There are limits of course- you can could carry a crowbar with you at all times in which case it would be lucky to have when the earthquake strikes and you find yourself trapped in a collapsed building. And having to carry a crowbar everywhere is hardly considered lucky.

But this is all really a pragmatic prelude. I would like to take a step deeper into the mystical/metaphysical and suggest that luck is actually a lot like capital. Luck, like capital, when invested, can create more luck. Luck squandered quickly depletes itself. I am more interested in the investment and dividends that luck reinvested pays out.

From a personal example- I was lucky (there was an opportunity and I was prepared to seize it) in getting a professional mentor in my undergraduate. My friend told me about it and dragged me there, and I got an mentor. I built up the relationship, I took advantage of what was offered, in short, I invested in my luck. I could have squandered it by not really doing anything with my mentor- I could have seen him once or twice and blown him off. I could have really not cared. My investment paid off- I was lucky (opportunity + preparedness) to have been offered a summer internship by my mentor, in which case the opportunity to work for that company was a direct result of my investment of my initial luck. I capitalized on my luck of the offered internship by working hard, making a good impression on the firm and my dividend on that luck was the offer for full time employment on a salary which was the high end of my peers (and would be seriously baller money today).

If you want to cultivate luck, you have to be willing to invest in it. Luck begats luck when you use it. Luck wants to be used, and if your luck "runs out" it can mean that serious misfortune has befallen you (catastrophic drought of opportunities), and you simply need to start back again at making yourself prepared for whatever opportunity would present itself.

I have been so lucky my entire life in part because of my willingness to invest in my luck, to use it, to do stuff with it. But I worry that I've been so lucky that the magnitude of capitalization has grown to a point where I must do really great things with it, and it's pretty intimidating. It's kind of like receiving several million dollars. There's huge opportunities, huge risk, huge responsibility with that kind of luck. Getting into Wash U grad school is like that for me. I was very lucky to get in, insanely lucky to be working with my fellow students who will become the leaders of the field, and so I can't place a dollar chip at a hundred dollar minimum table. The potential reward is phenomenal. The work level is phenomenal. And there is always the ability to walk away, to cash my chips as I have them, to slide and glide by, to settle, and chip by chip, give away my luck.

May 2, 2012

high and lows

A busy day of ups and downs.

Graduate degree project reviews began today. So my friends in DP are at the peak of excitement/nervousness/happiness/exhuastion, which is creates a really contagious atmosphere. It's far too easy to ride their wave of exhileration, and then it all comes crashing down on the shore of my project is still due saturday, and it's really not that interesting. Again.

Anyway, I saw Hiep, Zephyr, Pierre, and Shu present their work. Let me say that I stand in awe of their work- from the Heip's incredibly deft stictching of existing buildings and traffic, Zephyr's sublimely beautiful drawings and models, Pierre's conceptual daring and wit, and Shu's exceptional moments.

I feel so far from being able to do what they did, its very disheartening. I still don't know Rhino that well. I've never milled a model. I'm not comfortable with the laser cutter. Damning things like that. I can get proficient in Rhino over the summer, which I need to do anyway.

Tonight, I went to a M83 concert with Luke and Adam from my studio. They're kind of ambient emoish electronica rock. It's kind of like super-electrified and altered rock which goes between kind of synth soundscapes more about ambient texture to kind of soft, wavy things, to pure dance club techno. I was not that impressed with them live. It all seemed to be so much the same to me.

Coming down from the balcony in the middle of the crowded stairs, someone above vomited on me, getting in my hair, my glasses, my shirt. I'd lost Adam and Luke at that point, and I'd idiotically forgotten my cell phone at home today, so I was pretty shit out of luck. I cleaned off as much of the puke as I could in the bathroom and angrily walked back to school. I beat Adam and Luke there who drove back. I can walk pretty fast when I'm mad.

Drove home, took a shower, now about to eat. Then back to the studio and back to drawings to try to draw out the interesting bits of this project. Three more days and hopefully it will nudge the needle from SUCK to UNSUCK.

Medium is the message

I moved the blog again. I deleted the Tumblr account and moved everything to, a more writing-centric website.