Summer Bike Ride in Eindhoven

I wanted to document what it’s like to cycle around Eindhoven so this video is the result 🙂

(check out the guy who crashes his bike at the very beginning. Recording that was a complete accident, btw).

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Sometime, in Holland…

A bout of insomnia led me to make a short video with a collection of travels through Holland. It is meant to be a first person view of a few different cities in the Netherlands that I have seen this semester! Enjoy.

(PS- the Amsterdam bit might give you a headache…fair warning.)

New Prototyping Skills: Casting

Hey everyone, sorry for the lack of updates! It’s been a busy few weeks to say the least, with final presentations, midterm exhibitions, and the inevitable travel I needed for a recovery afterwards! But the exciting news is, I have lots of juicy posts to update you.

This post is mostly for my Industrial Design/Architecture/Artist friends and anyone else who is interested in metal casting. I had the great opportunity to cast some pieces out of bronze for one of my classes here at TU/e. I had never cast before (and neither had the other 7 people that were present at the casting) so it was quite a new experience. The casting was done at Beeldenstorm, which in Dutch roughly means “statue form.” It is a metal/casting shop (and they also do plastic) on the Technical University campus. It is a resource for many more people than just students, though!

I’m going to describe the steps and also include some cool photos. Nothing like recounting the process of fiery, extremely hot, molten metal being poured into sand molds…am I right?

Steps To Casting via Green Sand Mold

  1. Make an initial model impression. First off, you must set your models into a section of reddish sand to make the first half of the mold. This step is pretty simple. You press your models in and pack in some sand around the sides so that all of your details are included in the mold.ImageImage
  2. Mix sand with chemicals to pour onto impression and make side 1 of your mold. After packing in your red sand, the group (it takes several people for this because the process must be quick) mixes a bucket of sand with two different chemicals. You must mix one chemical at a time, and you also have to flip the sand in the bucket so that each chemical mixes evenly. As soon as the mixing is complete, you have to pour the sand onto your model impression, because the sand sets quickly. The sand quickly begins to turn green, and hardens, which is essential to making your mold correctly. Also, we had to mix 2 buckets of sand for each side (for the bigger molds) which meant that we had to quickly mix 2 buckets in a row, because the layers couldn’t harden at different times. If they did, the mold would be an incorrect consistency. After patting down the poured sand, you place some sort of object on top (we used a piece of scrap wood) so you can check the color of the sand to see whether the mold is ready to flip over and repeat this process.ImageImageImage
  3. When side 1 of the sand mold has hardened, it’s time to flip it over and repeat step 2. The hardening process takes about an hour to an hour and a half, so we just took a break outdoors during the process. Before flipping, you must check whether the green color is deep enough and thus the sand is hard enough to withstand being flipped to the other side. After flipping & carefully removing the side supports for the model, you must remove the excess red sand so that you can make an impression of that side of the models. This is a delicate process. You need to remove as much of the red sand as you can, so that the sand covers all of your models’ details.ImageImage
  4. Repeat step 2 and wait for the entire mold to harden. Once the new side of the mold has hardened, you must carefully pry the two sides apart so that you can remove the models (ours were made of MDF wood) from the inside as well as draw the channels for the metal to run through. The prying apart was also a delicate process, because the sand mold could easily break apart and hours of work could be ruined, so one of the professionals performed this part for us. He also drew the channels for our mold, which seems simple enough but there is an important infrastructure to it. Image
  5. Once the channels are carved properly, it’s time to spray the mold down to make it firesafe! (This part is fun.) The spray smells awful but the fireproofing part is awesome. After you take your two sides outside and spray the mold-side thoroughly, one of the Beeldenstorm employees took each side of the mold over to the oven, and lit it on fire. You then wait for the sprayed part’s fire to go out. Then it’s time to clamp the two sides together, and pour the metal through the channels!ImageImage
  6. Clamp the mold and watch the professional pour molten metal (bronze or aluminum) through it! This part is pretty simple and makes for some great pictures. Unless of course you want to actually be one of the guys that gets paid to pour this extremely hot stuff- I imagine that process is a bit more difficult.ImageImage
  7. Wait for the metal to cool (about 20 minutes) and take apart your mold to remove your new casted object! This process was much shorter than I thought it’d be. Turns out, metal cools pretty quickly! As soon as the metal is removed, you put it in water to speed up the cooling process so that it is touchable. The metal piece looks a bit less-than-attractive because of the metal channels attached to it, but once this piece is fully cooled you can start cutting and shaping it! We waited to finish the next step after the weekend because of the metal shop’s hours.ImageImageImageImageImage
  8. Shape using tools- cutters/polishers, etc. This step is the most artistic and hand-crafted part of the process. Unfortunately, I don’t have photos due to time constraints we were under, but the process was very similar to wood-shaping (just more time intensive). We also had to wear more protective material, because it turns out that when you’re removing metal, the hot shavings that fly out everywhere really sting when they hit your skin. Who knew? We had to wear faceguards, ear protection, thick gloves, and clothes that cover your entire arms/legs/chest areas. The final result? Two pieces of bronze cutlery, designed to fit the terms repulsive + inappropriate. One piece of the set was required to be “sufficient” while the other was deemed “excessive.” Check out the final product!Image

10 Rules To Biking Like a Proper Dutch Cyclist

  1. Always park your bike next to a nicer bike. Not only does it deter thieves from touching your bike, but it also ensures that the person next to you won’t bang up and damage the already “vintage” at best quality of your bicycle. 

    Exhibit A: The bike on the left is from the Rijwielcentrale Bike Shop aka it definitely cost several hundred euros. My bike, on the right, is well used and cost about 30 euros. You do the math.

  2. Learn how to bike with a person on the back of your bike (and learn how to ride on the back, also). Not everyone owns a bike. You will often encounter situations where you may have brought your bike but your friend did not. This means that you’re going to probably double up to get where you’re going. I have tried riding on the back. I lasted about 5 minutes before I was just too freaked out. Of course, the Dutch are used to it because they start riding this way when they’re very young. Allie, when she visited me, was a natural at riding on the back. It depends on how comfortable you are with sitting on flat metal bars and not being able to see where you are going.
  3. Multitasking is your friend. Yep, you can pretty much do whatever you want while you are biking as far as I know. You can text. You can listen to your iPod. You can smoke. You can paint your fingernails. Whatever you want as long as it doesn’t “cause danger.” Take that as you will. I have seen people do 2 or 3 of these things at once. Crazy.
  4. Your bike is like a pack mule, so use it. Balance is especially important with this one. I have learned how to bike home after a shopping spree- I put multiple bags on my handlebars, wrap them through my fingers and I’m off! It can get a little tricky depending on how heavy the bags are and how many you have, of course, but it’s much easier than walking home with all your purchases in hand.
  5. Trick out your bike and personalize it! Since most people’s bikes are used, and most of the bodies are brown/black/navy/grey, a lot of the bikes end up looking the same. Personalization makes your bike easier to pick out of a crowd and also gives it a bit more meaning to you. The personalizations range from really girly (stores sell fake flowers for you to wind around the handlebars) to really practical (extra lights, bells, seat covers, etc). You can also buy packs to go on the back of your bike, in tons of different colors or prints. It’s up to you!
  6. Become an expert in weaving- safely. I have to admit it’s hard to get used to this rule. I am pretty good with weaving when I walk (I’m a natural at walking around in NYC- you’ll only understand this skill if you visit the city). However, weaving when I’m on a bike feels much more vulnerable for some reason. If you wait for everyone and everything to cross your path before you continue on, you will pretty much wait forever. I’ve heard you can get a hefty fine if you cross through a crosswalk without a green bike sign, but most people do it anyway…within reason.
  7. Park with caution. Bike sheds are your friend. Bike theft is so common here, it’s a bit of a risk to leave your bike locked up on an outdoor bike rack for more than a few hours. I always lock my bike to something rooted in the ground, like a sign or a pole- but that’s also because I don’t have a kickstand. People can also get pretty creative with where they park their bikes. Sometimes it takes a bit of rearranging to get your bike to fit in a spot.
  8. You don’t have to be a vicious biker, but just know that others will be. This is especially true in bigger cities, like Amsterdam. Bicyclists will run you over. They do not care about your toes, legs, arms, bags- if you are in the way, and you don’t move, chances are you’re going to get hit. I don’t like to bike like this because I think this is why lots of people (at least back home in the US) find bicyclists rather annoying. Luckily, the locals understand this and most of the time, pedestrians will wait for cyclists to pass or they will just move out of the cyclists’ path.
  9. Bike tunnels can be really cool. Okay, this isn’t really a rule. Just something I’ve noticed. I need to take pictures of the massive graffiti bike tunnel on the east side of Eindhoven, so you can understand what I’m talking about! It’s stunning.
  10. Bike in groups- it’s more fun and more active than riding in the car. Biking to a certain location with your friends can be really fun. Conversations are filled with more activity, you can see and comment on more things as you pass them, you interact with others on their bikes. Not only that, you’re getting exercise. It’s a win on multiple fronts.

Allie’s Visit/Another weekend in Amsterdam!

Writing a bit late on this, since Allie left on Monday, but I am so glad my lovely friend decided to come all the way from Sweden to visit me! Allie came into Eindhoven on Saturday, so I showed her around my town. We went shopping at the Saturday outdoor market in Woensel (and bought some awesome America shirts…while we were in Holland…haha). We ate lunch in the center, so Allie got to try the fries with mayonnaise. Allie is now a converted fan of the mayonnaise 🙂

We also did a bit of additional shopping in the Eindhoven center and then picked up some “Chinese” food- I use quotation marks because every outside food in the Netherlands has a bit of Dutch style to it because apparently, the Dutch are picky eaters. Also, their Chinese food is just different than the Chinese food you’d expect in America. Still very good though!

After a bit of rest, I took Allie out in the Stratum (street of pubs in Eindhoven’s center) to meet up with some friends. Highlights include being some of the only people dancing, as well as watching lots of karaoke in the karaoke bar- always entertaining.

On Sunday, we took a trip to Amsterdam! It was actually helpful that’d I just been there a week before, because I was much better at navigating the city this time. First off, we went to see the Anne Frank House. Like I said, it’s very powerful to be in the Secret Annex, where the Frank and Van Pels families hid during World War II. Everyone should see it at least once!

After the Anne Frank house, we walked through the flower market, where they sell pretty much everything, with a focus on tulips. After getting some snacks (fries and croissants, mmm) we went on a Canal Tour through the city, which was perfectly timed on the cusp of nightfall, when all the lights around the canal bridges look beautiful. The canal tour lasted an hour. I also highly recommend doing that at least once!

Of course, a trip to Amsterdam is incomplete without walking around the Dam and the Red Light District, so we made some excursions to those parts of the city as well. After lots of walking and a bit of dinner, we went to the “Xtra Cold” Amsterdam Ice Bar! We had to wear huge puffy jackets and gloves so that we could drink our beverages out of entirely ice glasses. Talk about cold drinks. The walls and the seating arrangements were also made out of ice- pretty cool. The eskimo bartender also apparently knows someone in school in Atlanta. He asked us what state in the US we were from before we made that connection. Talk about 6 degrees of separation.

After that, we took a late train home to Eindhoven. Monday I had to go to school to work on some projects, so Allie came with. We double-biked (the word I have devised that refers to someone riding on the back of a one-person bike). Allie has a picture of this in action. It’s pretty hilarious. Wish I could post it here!

Anyway, it was a great weekend. Now all I have to do is plan MY visit to Sweden to see Allie 🙂ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

Weekend!

Oh, how I love weekends.

Friday was the first day of project where I got to meet my coach. He seems like I can learn a lot from him, and he’s very friendly. Our project group had a nice casual discussion with him and I get to have a private coach meeting with him next week (where I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to show some progress on my project- eeeek!) One funny thing he mentioned when we met is that he had already googled me. “You have a website already, no?” he said. I think I turned about the brightest shade of red allowed. It was both exciting and embarrassing to know he’d looked up my work on the internet. But that’s what I have the website for, anyway.

After class on Friday, I went out with my New Zealander friend, Nichola. Our favorite pub to meet at has been the Tipsy Duck, probably because so many International students hang out there and the bartenders are really friendly. The Tipsy Duck played everything from typical European techno, to Sweet Home Alabama and Sweet Child O’ Mine.  I appreciated the American anthems!

We also have another favorite bar called Altstadt. I checked it out initially on the day it was snowing (there are only so many snowflakes my hair can handle) and because it had free Wi-Fi. But now we like it because of the atmosphere and the music. The bar plays a lot of alternative rock, and it’s kind of dark and mysterious inside…in a good way, of course. The design of the bar also makes it easy to meet and mingle with new people (although the loud music is perhaps not the best way to start a conversation. oh well). We stayed at Altstadt with our new friends until almost closing time. It was a good night. And I finally learned the fast way to walk from my apartment to the city center (nearly a 30 minute walk). Which means next time, I can bike and it will be even quicker!

Saturday was a fun day as well. After a bit of sleeping in, flatmate Juan took me and my Singaporean flatmate, Carling, to the Saturday afternoon market that is only a few minutes away from our place. You can buy literally anything there- it’s like a huge outdoor mall. The best part is the stroopwafels that are hot and fresh that you can buy for 1 euro. Mmmm. We also bought some chicken so that Juan and I could make a lunch he used to eat with his old flatmates (Carling and I live in their rooms now). The chicken is a huge leg for 1.75 euro and its so delicious. We made rice with it and it was perfect. After lunch we took a siesta (I swear, I’m learning more about the Spaniards because I am around them at home, the most). Juan plays ice hockey at the rink slightly outside of Eindhoven and he had free tickets to an allstar game. It was the Netherlands National team versus the all-stars from all of the Dutch leagues. So after the naptime, we (me, Juan, and all of Juan’s friends from Spain) bundled up, got on our bikes, and braved the chilly 6km bikeride to the ice hockey rink. The game was really fun (all-star team won in overtime!) and we also got to watch some amusing hockey challenge games that they played before the actual match. PS- Dutch hockey players are really hot. …Does that make me a “skate-chaser”?

The game ended at nearly 11pm and we rode an even colder 6km back home, where we were exhausted. Ate some dinner (I told you. Now I’m eating meals like a Spaniard) and went to sleep.

All-in-all a great weekend. But I’m sure I will have even better stories for you next week, because next week is CARNAVAL! Which reminds me, I need to find a costume.

Classes & Moving in

Delicious sandwich from a cafe in the city center.

Hello again! What an exhaustingly busy two days. Yesterday I moved out of the hotel I’ve been staying in all week, went to my first day of studio (which they call “project”), then signed my apartment lease and moved in! Luckily everything went pretty smoothly.

I’ll start with studio. Like I said, my project is Object: Playfulness in the Playful Interactions theme. The best part about the fact that we’re called Playful Interactions- we are encouraged to play and have fun all day! The instructors (called “coaches”) gave a short presentation on how we would spend the day organizing and designing our creative space so that it can be playful, however we define that. They gave examples like the Google offices and Red Bull offices, with slides and fireman poles and whatnot. Our space even has a gaming room with a flat screen TV and an old Super Nintendo, Xbox 360, Wii, Playstation…the works. We are encouraged to take gaming breaks or just play against each other for the simple goal of, well, playing. Yeah, I like this project already.

So my project group has maybe 12 people in it and we have a huge room to ourselves. When we went inside to brainstorm how we would be setting up our playful space, we had tons of tables (like, 2 for each person at least) as well as chairs, a plastic couch, and several shelves. We decided we wanted our space to be very open, and to foster communication and sharing. We designed our “Coffee Corner” using the couch and some tables and a blackboard. We will have coffee time in the mornings and an afternoon coffee break together. Then we have our group spaces (the freshmen work in teams so they need their own space; everyone else works individually).

We also have a good space for quiet working/prototyping/whatever we want really. The system seems like it will work well. I’m not really distracted by other people working in studio. In fact, it other people working around me motivates me to get more work done. I’m excited about our group’s layout, and to see how it turns out. We also planned a ton of semester-long games (ideas, at this stage) such as a timeline of photos/drawings we find interesting, a sculpture appropriately dubbed “The Thing” that we will contribute to all year, and giant versions of classic games like Twister and Connect-4. We have to present these concepts on Thursday so we’ll see which of these ideas we actually develop.

My projectmates all seem very friendly and have a variety of strengths/weaknesses so I think we’re a well-rounded design group. I am amazed at how everyone is willing to help one another, teach one another, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I love all my studio friends at Tech but the difference between the studio students is that a lot of the work done at TU/e is done in groups (unlike mostly individual projects at Tech). The group projects help create a kind of automatic togetherness.

Each person in the group shared their best skills and many of my classmates offered to give a workshop on his/her best skill. If all these workshops follow through, I have a feeling I will be improving my skills in all kinds of different areas.

Onto moving in, I have the best room in my 3 bedroom apartment, I believe 🙂 It’s long and roomy with a nice desk AND a balcony that overlooks a courtyard that adorable bunnies hop through. I can’t wait till it gets warmer  so I can sit outside on the balcony and drink a coffee in the morning or something. My flatmates are so far, pretty great. One of my flatmates is Carling, a Singapore exchange student, and she’s actually in the same studio project as me so we have a lot in common! I am so happy to have to someone I can discuss all of the workload with. Our other flatmate is a Spanish exchange student who as already been here a semester, Juan. He’s very friendly and knows a lot about Eindhoven and TU/e since he’s been here for awhile. He told me he came to study because he wanted to improve his English which is great because I can practice Spanish with him!

I am also very excited because today on my 25 minute walk home from class (I really need to get a bike…) I found an Albert Heijn! Ahhhh I am so excited because the Ah-Ha (the nickname for Albert Heijn) is the cheapest grocery store with the best selection, I think. The other grocery store, C1000 is actually closer to me but since Ah-Ha is on the way home, I think I will be picking up my groceries there. Tonight, I dined on a feast of a microwavable cheeseburger that cost me .50 cent euro. …Hey, it was a long day and I was feeling lazy.

Speaking of today, I had my first actual classes (called learning activities). I am not going to go into too much detail (already a long post) but I am taking classes called Kansei Design (a Japanese form of design that involves designing an experience to feel a certain way) and Look! (a glorified CFY/2nd year ID-ish class with lots of mood boards, sketching, photos etc but we’re designing cutlery so it could be a good portfolio piece). The first class is at 8:45am and the second lasts until 5:45pm so it feels like a long day but I have a nearly 4 hour break in between them. Plenty of time to hit up the Tuesday afternoon market in the city center, where they sell everything from fresh fruit, breads, to handmade scarves and jewelry. I wished I could’ve spent more time there today but I didn’t really have money to spend and was just kind of browsing for future reference.

PS- It SNOWED hardcore on Friday afternoon, only an hour or two after I published my last blog post. The snow was sooo fluffy and we got probably 5 or 6 inches. It was so much fun to play in this weekend. Although now that it has hardened, been salted, and plowed through, it’s not as fun or pretty anymore. Sigh. I will attach some pictures.

Until next time! Tot ziens!

Real update post!

Okay so now I have been here for 3 full days and I guess I owe my blog an update 🙂

After our arrival and check-in to the hotel, I went and opened my Dutch bank account, walked around Eindhoven so I could check out my new room/house/flat/apartment (whatever you like to call it. You never realize how many words there are for it until you’re surrounded by other nationalities) from the outside, since I don’t get to pick up my keys until Monday. It looks like I have a bit of a walk (~30 minutes to the university) but that’s what bikes are for, right? Speaking of bikes, it might take awhile until I learn all of the cycle etiquette. There are separate bike paths next to roads and these bikers are probably more dangerous than cars, simply because it’s hard to remember to look both ways to cross both the bike path and the road. After exploration, my parents and I went out for dinner at a Mexican restaurant (pretty good, although the chips and salsa not so much). We tried a local beer, Domelsch, and found out that we’re currently in a popular area for it. I thought I’d be seeing Heineken signs everywhere but it’s more common to see Dommelsch, Bavaria, or Amstel even.

The next day (Wednesday) I got up early and braved the freezing cold 20 minute walk to my new school, TU/e. It’s pretty much the Dutch version of Georgia Tech. It has the same guy-girl ratio and everything. For the day, I attended a few orientation-related things and made new friends- Nichola from New Zealand, Roman from France, and Annie from Hungary. I got to eat lunch with them in the TU/e auditorium; it has a cafe with a huge amount of seating. The campus buildings here really put Georgia Tech’s to shame. They remind me of our Biotech buildings, but much taller and with some European flair. The food in the cafe is AMAZING and lots of healthy options, another thing that has me swooning. Tech could seriously take notes on this University. There is a huge array of foods; delicious sandwiches on the best kinds of bread, lots of fresh fruit, freshly mixed fruit juices (I tried the lemon-lime twist, SO GOOD), salads with all kinds of toppings. It might sound similar to what GT offers but I promise you it’s a whole other world. And the food is so cheap! 2 euro for a big sandwich, nom nom.

The ID department is much bigger here than GT’s. There are about 650 students, and instead of one studio per year, there are about 5 or 6, all named by colors (orange, purple, green, blue space, etc). We get to pick a “theme” and then a project under that theme. Each theme meets in their mandated “space” aka studio room. I am doing a project called Object: Playfulness which is under the theme Playful Interactions and meets in the orange room. All I know about my theme so far, since we don’t actually meet until Monday, is that I will be analyzing small, portable handheld games that everyone can play and understand, such as checkers, jacks, etc. I believe I am supposed to come up with an object that can be associated with a similar game or a different version of those games, of course I will find out more details on Monday.

I joined Lucid, which is similar to IDSA but a bit more social, like a fraternity or sorority. Their office is awesome, filled with tons of design books, supplies, and snacks that you can buy at a discounted rate. On Thursdays, Lucid runs a bar in the basement of the building with all the ID studios (so great) where you can buy beers for .80 euro each! And if you’re a Lucid member and put money on your key fob that they supply you, the drinks are even cheaper. Nichola, Roman, Annie and I went to the first Thursday drinking night of the semester. The bar atmosphere is very cozy, with lots of comfy couches and chairs where you can get lost in the delicious beer and great conversations. I am learning so much about so many cultures. We mostly spent our time comparing our respective countries and laughing at all the differences.

Then we went to get some dinner, and went to a burger/shake joint (yep they still have those here). I tried the famous frites (fries) with mayonaise. It was so yummy! I don’t think I’ll be eating it regularly because it’s pretty fattening, but I liked it. One funny thing about here: they put shaved carrot pieces on their burgers, and all the toppings are below the meat as opposed to on top.  A little different, but they still taste good.

Finally we made our way to the street of bars, which was quite active because we found out that the Eindhoven football club had a game going on (at Philips Stadium in Eindhoven, it was way too cold to go to that though). I ordered a Hoegaarden and the bartender Nico, who we found out was Belgian, was so excited about us ordering Belgian beer that he gave us 2 free beers and 1 discounted. We felt nice and toasty to combat the cold, but it had been a long day, so a little while after the game (and the winning celebration, accompanied with lots of Dutch techno songs) we parted ways. Nichola and I are both staying in the same hotel right now so I tried to guide us (big mistake). We got a bit lost but it wasn’t anything to worry about. After I got home I fell asleep pretty quickly. Will jetlag ever go away?

I will update when more fun details emerge 🙂 For now I have a city to explore and a weekend to enjoy!

Arrival!

I am finally here! Actually I’ve been here two days but the jet lag and the lack of regular internet has temporarily delayed my posting. So first before I tell you stories, I want to include a little list I kept on my phone of the things I learned on my traveling day, when I flew into Brussels, Belgium and then took trains to my school’s location of Eindhoven, Netherlands (Monday/Tuesday):

– First rule of driving in Belgium/Netherlands: there are no rules (hence why I won’t be driving here, ever).
– Belgium is 60/40 in terms of speaking Flemish (Dutch with a different accent) and French.
– This area is the most densely populated area in Europe.
– Belgium had a railway strike the day before we arrived. Thank goodness we came the next day…

For now, that’s all I can contribute because I have a lecture to go to. Tot ziens!