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Dispatches from a Nomad: Recurse Week 03

Published: 2023-06-07 12:00:00 EDT

The week of May 29, 2023


Welcome to Week 3 edition of the Dispatches from a Nomad 🎒: the Recurse collection 💻

In case you missed last week’s edition, you can find it HERE.

Nomadic Adventures

This week, I’m featuring my first cross-country train trip that I did back in October 2022. I traveled from New York to San Francisco via the Amtrak and had one of the most amazing journeys along the way. I made stops in Chicago, Denver, took a bit of a detour flight down to Austin to celebrate my friend, Austin, and his birthday at no other than Austin City Limits. So in Austin in Austin for Austin…City Limits. Flew back to Denver to continue trip westward with stops in Glenwood Springs, Salt Lake City, a quick trip up to Park City before returning to SLC for a final stretch to Emeryville. From there, we concluded our epic, transcontinental odyssey by unceremoniously loading into a charter bus to complete our SF arrival at some random street corner in downtown.

The album is a bit sparse on details of the train travels right now because I did my journaling with pen and paper and haven’t had the time to type a summary up. However, I wanted to share some of the photos from the trip and I’ll follow up with some proper travel blogging in the near future.

🎒 Nomadic Adventures: Lakeshore Limited and California Zephyr

Nomadic Note

Hiking and Imbibing

This week, my project updates will be rather short because of holidays and friends! Monday was a public holiday both here in France observing Pentecost, and in the US for Memorial Day. I spent the day on a 10-mile hike with my friend, Nico. We went hiking through the Forêt Fontainebleau, to the small village of Barbizon and rewarded ourselves with ice cream. This was all just two days after doing a 10-mile run 😅. So my body was a bit pooped afterwards.

Tuesday, I went champagning! 🍾 I spent the day with Austin and some of his friends who were all in town to celebrate their friend’s birthday. We went to Reims and visited two different champagne houses: Taittinger and Pommery. It’s pretty amazing that in 50 minutes, you can be whisked to the heart of the champagne region 🥂

This was my second time visiting the Taittinger House but the first time visiting its Demeure des Comtes, or the House of the Counts. The Caves of Taittinger are being repaired so they designed a new tasting experience in their other house. We also visited the champagne of Pommery and it was a visually decadent affair. They use their cave both for creating their champagne, but also to host temporary art exhibitions.

While on the tour, I learned that Madame Pommery was the one responsible for the brut champagne 👸🏻🍾 Before her innovation, champagne were served very sweet, likely because the poor dégorgement (expelling of the yeast) practices back in the day.

🍾 Champagning in Reims!

After the tour, I went for my run for the day, and afterwards, I was too wiped to work.

A Ticket to Write

Wednesday, I finally got around to buying a nice writing pen for a new project I was about to kick off. I found a really cute stationery and pen shop called L’Ecritoire, spent a considerable amount of time trying different pens with different nibs. I was stepping into a new world, the world of fountain pens 🖋️🖋️🖋️

I’m a leftie, both the political kind and the one of the southpaw persuasion, and for me, writing is hard. Ink just doesn’t flow with ease when I write because the biomechanics are different. I write with a “hook”, and in cursory search I found websites both scolding it as a bad habit and communities giving comfort and solidarity to our approach. But hey, Obama is a leftie, too!

I began looking for an entry fountain pen, you know, that gateway drug to better writing. I stumbled upon Lamy and it was love at first write. I really liked the striking design, the palette of colors, and the fact that it had a fine point nib. I also learned that Lamy has created a left-handed nib for the pen, but the problems I found with it is that:

(1) the tip is medium, which means there’s more ink flow, which is problematic with ink drying and your hand smearing it. Truly, the life and the mark of a leftie back in grade school was to have the outer regions of the palm completely covered with ink or graphite.

(2) over time, I have learned to adjust to the way right-handed pens are made, which are to be dragged behind them, and I’m not sure I could write in a natural left-handed way anymore that would be conducive to the nib. Maybe Teon of the past, maybe 25 years ago, would have appreciated this nib, but also he would have still been covered in ink.

So I bought it! A Lamy Safari Special Edition Light Rose ✒️ I was also informed that this particular Lamy is the perfect starter fountain pen. Nice entry price, super performant, it could be my daily driver. From the sticker price of some of the other models in the store, these pens just go up and to the right in a hockey-stick shape fashion for price 🏒

While I was leaving the shop, I talked to a woman who teaches calligraphy who had also just purchased some things from the shop, and she gave me some pointers of starting my letter movement from bottom up to evoke the ink in the pen.

Later that afternoon, I had a 1-on-1 chat with Zach of my cohort, and we had a chance to do a proper meet and greet, and then we discussed the projects we were planning to work on. We also both geeked out over our favorite writing instruments. I had just showed off my new pen and he showed me his, a Caran D’Ache.

It’s really in moments like these that I remember that these quirky things like a favorite pen brand, finding good stationery, all these analog tools that makes us uniquely human, give us shape and dimensionality that gets lost in the digital world.

This is partly what I am trying to interrogate with my overall project.

I don’t want to spoil the letter-writing project so I won’t talk too much about it now. I will wait until it is completed, at least the first phase of it and chat more about it.

Sidenote, I also went down a rabbit-hole on fountain pens. I even learned of a blog called the Gentleman Stationer where he discussed Lamy Vista pen

Impossible Day

On Thursday, the Recurse Center hosted what is known as Impossible Day. The aim is to propose a project that would be impossible to finish within the constraints of the day but push us to try to finish anyways, a moonshot as some people might call it. I had this idea to build my own Android app and I wanted to build something to help me out with a severe problem I’m facing:

The more I speak French while I’m here, the more I realized I don’t remember the gender of a lot of objects I used to know 😱

So I got this idea that I would build a Tinder for (Grammatical) Gender app. The concept is simple, I would gather a list of French nouns with their corresponding gender, maybe the top 500 nouns, and have an interface where I would swipe left for feminine and swipe right for masculine.

So I was on a mission! I looked around to see what my options would be to build this and then I stumbled upon Flutter. Flutter is a framework for building apps across all the platforms. I found a tutorial that showed how to implement a Tinder-like swiping app in Flutter and there was a Google Codelabs walkthrough to build your own first Flutter app so now I had the plan!

I started the download process of all the tools I needed. And like always, this is the part of the process that takes exceedingly too long and never goes without a hitch. I ran into uses with installing Cocoapods and there was something wrong with the Ruby instance installed on my computer. I didn’t even know I had Ruby installed on my computer. So I spent most my time getting the environment set up.

The event kickoff was from 5:30pm to 6pm local time, but by the time I finally got things going, I realized, it was 8pm and I needed to go for my run. Thus, my impossible project remained impossible for yet another day.

Bite-sized Data and Bookbinding

I only managed to work a tiny bit in the afternoon. I spent that time working on my data project, which I will share out next week. I learned a far bit about geo-tagging, mapping, and extracting GPS data.

Austin and I had a late lunch and came across a really cool atelier that had a small gallery featuring local artists in the front and also a workshop in the back for bookbinding!

I’ve been considering getting my scrapbook rebound because the binding of the moleskin is not longer adherent to the cover. The owner of the shop informed me that they could give books new life even converting paperbacks to hardcover books.

The Weekend

My weekend started with a hang at Vendredix, a weekly soirée on the Seine with the gays. It’s a fun social event. Saturday included a run, which included a few meltdowns (can read more below) but I finished, and night full of clubbing at a party called Pornceptual, a Berlin party that graces the streets of Paris once or twice a year.

All and all, I’ve been getting more consistent sleep, keeping caffeine levels low, meditation levels high, and have been building up my perseverance from my runs, which have really fortified my mental stamina and endurance.

Nomadic Recurse Runs of the Week

Here’s a collection of my runs for the week. Monuments featured below are Sacré Coeur, Musée du Louvre, and Arc du Triomphe:

Nomadic Weekly Roundup

Favorite Reads of the Week

Favorite Podcasts of the Week


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