Category Archives: travel

Waking moments in San’Agata

So, to recap from a few posts ago, I spent my previous break travelling from Switzerland to the southern tip of Italy to meet my long-lost relatives… some who immigrated to the US long ago and then returned to Italy, others are relatives who stayed behind.

I never had a chance to go through my photographs – it’s just now during my current break that I finally got them off Pig’s laptop.  Anyway, thought I’d share a few moments from that incredible experience.  These are from the second portion of my trip, spent in San’Agata di Esaro in Calabria, a small mountaintop village of about 2,000.  Walks at 6am revealed the town in quiet beauty, tho many people were out and about enjoying the morning temperatures at that time.

Far up in the mountains…

The town awakening..

My view in the morning…

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Long Weekend, new Quarter

Seventh Quarter has started, but not quite in full gear yet.  I had two of my classes cancelled last week, so I can’t give the full outlook yet.  However, I am optimistic that it will be better than 6th quarter.  What an awful, awful quarter!  I’m still reeling from it and trying to regain my confidence.  I won’t go into details on the public world wide web, but I will say that Portfolio Center encourages taking risks.  It also says not to fear mistakes.  Well, I took a few simple risks, ended up with some big mistakes, and ended up scared, in a huge mess, and some nasty health ailments

Since this is my last quarter of classes, I’m hoping I’ll have a breakthrough and catch up on some areas where Media Architecture pulled me away.  I was able to catch up on some idle time this weekend, a lovely 4th of July…I haven’t had an idle Saturday since March!  April and the first part of June provided non stop stress, and during break I was constantly travelling…Saturday 1, arriving in Milan and seeing as much as possible including a way to get from the airport to the hotel on a miniscule budget, Saturday 2, going from Rome to Calabria, Saturday 3, from Calabria to Rome.  This weekend?  A visit to PDK airport, viewing of Grindhouse, and family gathering.  Quiet downtime before the chaos starts all over.

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Kidrobot Vs. Lil Wayne

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So Miami did have some really cool things despite some of my dismal experiences…an unexpected surprise was a pass through the Kidrobot store. Since high fashion doesn’t appeal to me (this might change if I get a decent job later) and I had little interest in crappy souvenir stores or the retail stores we have in Atlanta, I didn’t know if the shopping in South Beach would have any appeal to me. But fear not techie toy loving dorks! Not only did the Mac store on Lincoln Ave have live DJs performing in a club-like atmosphere, but Kidrobot has a store just waiting for you on Miami Beach. Quirky fun toys and giant smoking rabbits! It was a wonderful atmosphere full of fun innovative little toys for adult kids.

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Oddly enough, an entorage of very confident guys came in yelling and announcing something while I was browsing about. I asked a worker if I could have my picture taken with one of the giant smoking rabbits and the answer was no…not sure if it’s a store policy or because it turned out to be Lil Wayne shopping in the store. I hadn’t been paying attention to anyone else, as I was deep in my own paradise drooling over crazy little figurines. I didn’t realize who it was until I stepped out of the store and was met with fat lensed cameras and girls screaming “oh my god, it’s lil Wayne! If only I had gone into the store 5 minutes earlier! OMG!” I guess I was lucky to get in when I did? Oh well, that was my brush with the glitterati in South Beach.

I still would have rather had my picture taken with the giant smoking bunny.

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Design Experience: Coffee Nation

The following is a short essay for my Design Experience class regarding good and bad experiences.

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My favorite way to spend free time is to sit at leisure in a coffee shop or café with a cup of something stimulating and conversation of similar nature. I’ve experienced many wonderful cafes in my lifetime that have left a memory or two with me, though in my humble opinion, even the local Starbucks can often provide a place for something pleasant.

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In particular, Coffee Nation is a small café in Riga, Latvia that stands out as one of those cafes that fills its customer with a warm, memorable experience. Coffee Nation could be enjoyable at any time, though the mornings were by far the most pleasant. This says a great deal, as I am not a creature of morning habits, yet this café made the mornings an likable time.

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Located on street level on the opposite side of a friend’s flat we visited, Coffee Nation provided the ideal start to the day in a close proximity unknown to most U.S. cities. The urban décor was tasteful but not extravagant, and did not overshadow the large cups of liquid fuel and fresh pastries. While the inside had its merits, the sidewalk patio provided a relaxing breath of fresh air and an opportunity to slowly divulge in a large cappuccino in the early sunlight. The picturesque streets of Riga became a stage for the small bistro tables, as average people walked past on their commute and moderate traffic passed through the unpretentious city.

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Design Experience: USCIS

The following is a short essay for my Design Experience class regarding good and bad experiences.

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The U.S. Citizen and Immigration Service (formally the INS)

I feel it’s a preconceived notion that when a foreigner marries an American, a gift basket complete with green card, working documents and a social security card arrives at that foreigner’s front door. In reality, this is not the case, and for those who process their papers through the Atlanta branch, the opposite is true.  Instead it is a long and confusing process that at times seems set for new immigrants to fail.
I was living in Russia with my husband, a citizen of said country, when we decided to move things over to the U.S.  We completed all necessary papers for the appropriate visa (K3, for foreigners wed to U.S. Citizens outside the U.S.).  Upon getting notice that our papers had been received, a document was sent stating that everything would be processed in 30-999 days.  Alas, after waiting six months and talking to a lawyer, meeting with the U.S. consulate and providing every train ticket or email between and documenting every financial asset to prove we could support each other – in September 2003, my husband was finally granted the proper visa to enter the U.S.

After entering the U.S., however, my husband hardly felt welcome.  His visa did not merit him a social security card or permission to work, and the DMV would not issue him a license until further paperwork explained that his visa was valid.  After four months of laborious paperwork, a driver’s license was obtained, but still no work permit.  Multiple trips were made to the local USCIS office, but as always no one knew where the papers were.  After six months, I demanded answers and planted myself before a rude immigration official.  I wanted an explanation as to why the USCIS could not locate the work papers, after the computer showed that they had been completed, but could not find them, and could not issue new a new work permit.  When the immigration official ran out of excuses, he called security and two large men soon appeared at my side, the stench of Fulton Street quickly meeting my nose.  Meanwhile, though our papers were still missing, we received the green card for an applicant of a similar name and were forced to clear up this mistake.  After eight months, summer 2004, the work permit was finally found and sent to my husband and he could begin to look for a job.

That was not the end of the troubles, as my husband’s visa was soon to expire and the Atlanta USCIS office was backlogged again.  This time we awaited his permanent resident card (green card), but again were told to wait.  My husband’s visa expired, and though he was legally in the U.S., he remained without status, unable to leave or reenter the U.S.  In December 2005 we were finally called in for the green card interview, but were declined –my husband’s fingerprints had “expired.”  We quickly got them retaken and in 2006, nearly 3 years later, he received his permanent resident/green card.

In fall 2008, it is possible to apply for citizenship, and we are placing bets as to how many years this will take.

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January brings a 5th quarter

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The new quarter started and the holidays seemed long forgotten, but leftover kharcho and hachipurri are nice to have around when the cold emptiness of this time of year can settle in. Well, not cold, it’s been around 70 here lately (though we had a few days in the 30s last week).

It’s always a bit hard to start back in after several weeks off – it takes a while after critique week to adjust to sleeping normally and not having constant pressure applied – I seriously felt like I was suffering Moscow jet lag the first week, falling asleep at 11pm and waking at 4am. Now I’m getting used to a schedule of night classes, which is very weird as I am alone most of the daytime hours. I do have a class and a seminar 2 mornings a week, but 4 nights I’m in class (taking extra this quarter). So, motivating myself in the quietness, especially in the morning, is quite difficult. I’m not very inspiried in the morning…I become active at night, and feel most productive then, but now that time is spent in partially class, and when I come home, some of that spent with Pig before he goes to barn.

My instructors do seem surprisingly enthusiastic this quarter, perhaps a more advanced level is more exciting to them. Last quarter I was worried that the Media Architecture was loosing steam, but I sense a lot more spirit this quarter and that this really might just go somewhere. I am dreading the more technical aspects of Actionscript 3.0, but alas I wanted to learn that for Flash II. Motion II should also be enjoyable if our school gets up to date on its software. I must say that After Effects is the most enjoyable program I’ve learned while at PC, and I’m am very excited about the combination of this program’s capabilities and my imagination. I also have Design Experience, which is more theory than technical – something I haven’t had yet for my MA experience, and felt was lacking last quarter…I’m looking forward to see where this is going, and meanwhile I’ll be posting some of my assignments here for class.

I also have a logos class taught by Stefan Kjartansson of Armchair Media. When I got my schedule I wasn’t excited about another logos class, but Stefan’s reputation quickly spread that this wasn’t a class to be dropped. I was so relieved that the first class wasn’t draw-100-logos-and-then-I’ll-tell-you-what-sucks-and-have-you-draw-another-100. If we end up doing that later I won’t mind, but I just needed a break from that formula from day one. It’s such a breath of fresh air to get a little insight on what makes a logo work, playing first with shapes, and taking a different approach to logo related exercises – all from a different, professional perspective. And I was glad to see that Stefan seemed like a fun quirky guy, as I feared that an ego might accompany his prestigious reputation. Anyway, I’ll be posting some of those assignments here too.

I am nervous about PC staple, Message and Content, as I feel the foundation I set for my projects in these early weeks will really set the tone for the rest of the quarter. Mapping a journey and/or narrative – it sounds wonderfully interesting, but I feel a little lost as to where to start! I love maps, collect them often, and am obsessed with journeys…So, I suppose I feel some pressure to get this right…

So while the pressure of a heavy workload hasn’t built yet, I feel much in choosing the right start for my projects. It’s ideas and steps that will determine if these projects are worthy of being reworked, improved and put into my portfolio. After this, only two more quarters of real classes…I really need to start putting out some decent work…

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2007 Atlanta Scandinavian Festival

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When I was a student, I got used to seeing unusual things at my university, Atlanta’s castle-esque Oglethorpe. Sitting in the cafeteria and noticing someone outside dressed up in full medieval regalia seemed perfectly natural considering the architectual details of our campus. Having the Georgia Shakespeare Festival (it’s an actual theater) on campus didn’t help, and I think gamers and other groups often liked to meet at our campus just for the ambiance (not the world’s most amazing, but something special for strip-mall saturated Atlanta). I didn’t even know the Celtic Festival used our grounds until one morning I woke up to the baaing of sheep. Yes, on the grassy knoll outside my dorm, I thereupon saw a flock of sheep and a shaggy dog milling about. Again, a unique morning sighting for Atlanta dwellers. Upon further investgating the tents and ornamently dressed strangers, I then realized a Celtic festival was indeed in my front lawn, complete with a sheep herding competeition.

Now this weekend Oglethorpe played host to the Scandinavian festival. Though it wasn’t huge, it did its best to showcase Icelanidic, Danish, Swedish, Finnish and Norwegian culture. Live music of varying sorts filled the stage, and even a little folk dancing in between. If you did some hunting, you could get free samples of Glogg (lovely mulled wine) and lots of baked goods. I recommend Danish Delights from husband/wife team in Lawrenceville (yay for independent bakeries!).

Of course, a Scandinavian Festival can’t be without a few viking helmets and endorsements from Ikea. But hey, I got 2 free dinner coupons to the Swedish flat-pack designers, so maybe I’ll stop over there for a little trend research. Anyway, with such lovely weather, the 2007 Atlanta Scandinavian Festival gave us some cultural entertainment for the weekend and emptied my pockets a bit more than I’d like. But that’s the nature of festivals, I suppose, and I’m not going to have a chance to do any traveling there for at least another year and half (yes, I’m justifying it). Just stay away from the grumpy metal smithing guy. He went off on a 3 year old who touched some of his stuff while he stepped away. I was kinda surprised the parents didn’t react, as the kid looked utterly shocked after getting chewed out. Get rid of the metal smither and next year a good time can be had by all.

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Piglandia

Many may have gotten the opportunity to travel this summer, but few have bragging rites over a journey to Piglandia.

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Third Quarter…

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…came in like a lazy summer day, and went out as like a violent pre-autumn hurricane.  Caught me by surprise, battered me swept me off the ground a bit, but I’m happy I survived.

Now I’ll just crawl back into a my shell and get some rest, but I’ll be back out exploring soon…

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The real Loch Ness

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It’s been an intense day, well, week…just thought I’d post a little light-hearted siting. While travelling through Scotland several years ago to Drumnadrochit, I took a boat down the infamous Loch Ness…needless to say I didn’t see any such creatures (except at the Loch Ness Museum, there’s a huge, hideous plastic Nessie in a pond out there). Acutally, I found the water to be extremely tranquil and mysteriously dark – I would say black, but don’t want it to sound polluted…it seemed pristine to me. Well, perhaps then it is possible that aquatic furry creatures could hide out here…

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