August 31, 2010

rio de janeiro

last stop on our south american tour was rio de janeiro where, despite staying in copacabana, we did most of our beaching at post 9 in ipanema.

most notable element of the rio trip was the views of the city's diverse terrain from its many jurassic-park-esque mountaintops.  here's copacabana beach from the summit at sugar loaf mountain...

...and the iconic christ statue overlooking the entire region.

in addition to the mountaintop views, i was particularly impressed by the rio de janeiro cathedral in lapa.  the architecture is evocative of a mayan temple, with four long panels of stained glass that stretch up toward the ceiling creating a cross when you look up.

thanks to my lovely trip roommate tiffany, a few of us got to visit two of the top design firms in rio:  ana couto branding and tatil design.  the whole afternoon totally tickled my design fancy, but the most memorable moment was seeing an actual sample of the laser-etched leaves that put tatil on the map in 2009.

the next day, we took a tour of the favelas, which are the prevalent slums interspersed throughout rio de janeiro.

in the favelas, it's common for residents to steal electricity and cable.  almost every electric pole looks like a rat's nest of complicated bootleg wires, designed to confuse authorities who may attempt to disconnect unauthorized cables.

for years, the residents of the ad hoc favelas were largely undocumented because the basis of civic identification was having an actual address.  but once they named the streets in the favelas, they started to give the buildings numbers.  as soon as the buildings had numbers, the residents had addresses, and 4 million people suddenly became eligible to vote.  it's almost as if they appeared overnight, from the government's perspective.  pretty neat.

some favela kids were performing capoeira in one of the corner squares.

from a design perspective, i was really intrigued by the soda bottle street lights that lined the alleys of the favelas.

nightlife in rio was pretty wild -- the lines for the nightclubs in lapa were long and the samba was loud.  most notable element of rio nightlife:  couples make out in public.  a lot.


our next stop was iguazu falls, a waterfall region on the border of argentina and brazil.  we started on the brazil side.

the visitor's center is covered with friendly caricatures of the quati, a south american aardvark reminiscent of the bear cats i encountered in bali.  i was excited to see them until we read in the visitor's guide that many of them are rabid and prone to attacking people in search of snacks.  boo.

next we traveled by bus to the argentina side.  in a region where tourism is the dominant economic driver and buses of tourists travel between brazil and argentina every day, the process for crossing the border is frustratingly inefficient and slow.  for example, this seemed to be the best way to get a busload of people through border patrol:

the argentina side was, indeed, different from the brazilian side, and i think it preferred it...maybe because we had to take a little train into the park.

we walked out across the river on an elevated platform to see the main part of the falls...

...where i encountered the most endearing tourists of the trip, who taught me that awkward body contortions are key to memorable vacation photos.

on a small hike to another part of the falls, i did a remake of a throwback FIJI water label.

we finished our hike through the argentina side at sunset.

my peak cultural encounter was at a brazilian buffet where the dessert bar appeared to include peep casserole.  i tried to find out if the pink sugar-coated marshmallow bits were, in fact, dismembered peeps.  several rounds of portugese miscommunication later, the answer from the chef was "vanilla."

with respect to the rest of our time in iguazu, i think it's also fair to say that a group of 100+ students will never again be welcome at the turrance green hotel in foz do iguacu.

buenos aires

i just returned from a trip to south america with 100+ of my future stanford GSB classmates.  we started in buenos aires where we visited eduardo catalano's flor de metal...

...and the plaza 25 de mayo.  it struck me that graffiti in south america (and particularly in buenos aires) tended to be much more political than what we see here in the united states.

the recoleta cemetery was significantly larger than i expected, filled with mausoleums and statuary instead of headstones.  it's the burial site of eva peron and several argentinian presidents.  it's also overrun with cats.

a few of us took a bike tour of the city, which was probably the highlight of the whole trip.  we covered over 20km in the (mostly flat) city, with more intimate visits to diverse sights like the monument to the fallen in malvinas...

...the costanera sur nature preserve, where argentina's national tree lines the riverbank...

...and the neighborhood of la boca in the south of buenos aires.  lore is that immigrants received house paint in small batches, so their exteriors were traditionally patchy and multicolored.  now brightly colored buildings are a cultural staple in la boca -- a photographic jackpot.

and if you didn't believe the lore about a rich tradition of vivid paint, you could see the layers of history peel right off the walls.

also, this guy.  this is the guy.

our final stop was the plaza 25 de mayo at sunset.

the balance of the trip consisted of meat, cheese, and smoky nightclubs until 4am, but the imagery is far less culturally significant.  actually, it's mostly young american men with shirts unbuttoned to their navels.

August 16, 2010

see through iphone

this was just my first try, but i'd like to do more of these...

why you should go to burning man

my adorable-and-much-more-charming little sister zoe is building a sick, interactive art installation at burning man 2010.  it's called mountain view.

The Mountain View is a brick wall that is 30 feet long, 8 inches wide and 7 and a half feet high. It is an homage to urban graffiti art in any city center. The wall itself represents all the walls and barriers put up in cities to keep people out or designate what is mine and not yours. Mountain View has graffiti of murals and messages on it to give the portentous structure back to the people that see it and experience it everyday; the people of the streets. There are missing bricks throughout the wall to see what is on the other side and to give the viewer a realization that the wall is just a man made structure, capable of being destroyed. Location: 12:45.

together with her burn partner tony charrett (and their team), she's begun assembly in canada, and will construct the edifice on the playa at 12:45, less than 1500 feet from the man (close to the temple).  if you're into awesome stuff and cool people, stop by and say hello.

and if you're "still deciding" if you're going to burning man this year, i suggest you watch this (NSFW) video and reconsider:

August 13, 2010

bear on bear

could not love this more:

corporate jargon, unsucked

i reached my wit's end the day i received an email that concluded:  "please reach out to me by phone."  i almost wrote back to remind the sender that we actually have a word for that in english:  call.

after five years of management consulting, i've encountered my fair share of obnoxious corporate jargon.  usually you just have to pick it up as you go, but now there's a great translation website that turns business speak into plain english.  it's a godsend to entry-level analysts everywhere.

unsuck-it has many of my favorite offenders already (reach outofflineout of pocket, rock staropen the kimono, drill down, action item, paradigm shiftlow-hanging fruit, ping), but it's missing a few, so i submitted them:

"we need a meeting to talk around the sales figures."
translation:  about

knowledge sharing
"let's set up some time to do knowledge sharing before you leave the project."
translation:  exchange information

impactful (this is not even a real word)
"our work for this client has been really impactful to their business."
translation:  significant, valuable

"the company has operated in that space for 10 years."
translation:  industry, market

30,000-foot view
"before we dive into the details, please give us a 30,000-foot view of the situation."
translation:  overview, big picture

do you have any others to submit?  add value to the internets at

August 10, 2010

8 patties. 8 cheeses. 1 girl.

as promised, here's the evidence for all the non-believers out there:  i did, indeed, eat an 8-by-8 at in-n-out burger.

"do not dishonor me." -zoe

wanna know more?

August 3, 2010

hong kong

dim sum is the key to my heart, and i fell in love at the lin heung tea house...with a char siu bao:

lin heung tea house had some of the best dim sum in hong kong.  many locals, no english, and so busy they stuff you wherever there's room.  that means you'll likely share a table with an old man reading a newspaper and drinking his daily tea.  my favorite part of this place was that instead of patiently waiting for the dim sum carts to come around and show off their wares, customers would bum rush the carts, peeking under the bamboo lids to haggle with the servers.  dim sum is usually an aggressive sport, but this was a whole new level.  love the pau pau mugging me in the foreground.

egg custards at tai cheong bakery were delicious... was the $1-michelin-rated dim sum at tim ho wan.  full lunch for two:  less than $6.

on the rare occasion that i wasn't eating in hong kong, i saw the city's other offerings, like impeccably clean subways...

...distinctive apartment building facades...

...street butchers...

...and beauty supply stores featuring products with incomprehensible slogans:

my favorite hong kong beauty product find was a facial serum boasting ingredients of 100% goat embryo essence.  the specificity of that description is key.  100%, people.  not diluted like those sub-par goat embryo products you've been buying.