Slowing down

These two weekends were spent reconnecting with my home base. One of them was voluntary. The other was just rainy everywhere so I didn’t want to travel.

I have really neglected Madrid. I mean, check this out:

That’s Plaza España, basically the main square. I’ve lived here two months and this was my first time seeing it.

How food will solve my problems

My contract with the meal plan is up and I opted to discontinue because:

150€ per month, one meal during weekdays
30 days per month / 7 days per week = 4.29 weeks per month
5 weekdays per week * 4.29 weeks per month = 21.43 meals per month
150€ per month / 21.43 meals per month = exactly 7€ per meal

7€ per meal, and some of those meals seemed like they were made by a mom tired from a long workday (chicken nuggets, tomato sauce on rice? c’mon). It’s not bad, but I can do better.

For the following month, I plan to:

The benefits of this are:

Here’s what I found


Art… and chimps


This place is wicked cool. It’s the hip young neighborhood of Madrid. It’s home to a ton of cheap eats. Lots of fun hipster stores too.

Vincent van Toe

This has been my main food spot ever since. I love this one greek to-go place. For 5.50€ I get a big variety bowl (maybe some curried chicken, veggies, some baked thing) and a dessert (I grab a mixed fruit cup).


Stumbled across a free Madrid historical museum:

I struggle to soak up any knowledge from these visits, but I really liked the huge (size of a wall) old city maps that are surprisingly accurate today. The detail on these handmade things is crazy. My residencia would be at the very bottom of this one from 1656:

click to get the high res version and ZOOM!


Usually the stuff going on in Puerta del Sol is painfully touristy. I’m talking Mario and Donald Duck photoshoots.

Recently I enjoyed a group of classy older folks having a grand time dancing for the crowd. Look how for the first part, the men just stand still while the women slowly twirl them around:

Cine Doré

On the rainy weekend I got a 2€ ticket for Woody Allen’s political comedy Bananas playing at the local theater Cine Doré. I had a pleasant chat with the man next to me before the movie started. The theater was an actual theater and the lobby was like a bar.

I enjoyed the goofy old movie. I could make a habit of this.

More food

Per my Grandma Rossman’s suggestion I tried the famous Spanish torrija, similar to french toast. I understand that I’ll be seeing a lot of this during Semana Santa.

Found a tasty affordable Chinese place near my residence as well as a cheap Lebanese to-go place on my route to the metro.

I finally got to see inside the Taste of America store:

Super Mario cereal and prawn cocktail Pringles, just like home

I might have to get something there as a souvenir.

Mercado San Miguel

A lot of tasty looking stuff about three times too expensive. Still fun to window shop.

100 Montaditos

This is a big chain around here. It was a lot better than I expected. Normally I hate the pressure of ordering food in Spain but here I got to take my time with the menu and fill out a little sheet with my order. There’s a huge selection of bite sized sandwiches to pick from, for a euro each. I tried six.

The bread was actually soft!

Favorite: honey mustard crispy chicken

Worst: unidentified gray calamari mush

Exploring Leganés

Never really deviated from my path to class before. I enjoyed a stroll to a neighborhood park between classes.


Just enjoying the dreary weather :)

Personal updates


I’ve been enjoying James Clear’s Atomic Habits which gives pretty thorough psychological explanations for effective habit forming strategies. One habit I’m working on it being better at directions. When I’m not in a rush, I have been doing a lot of walking to internalize the major routes of the city (e.g. forcing myself to walk from the main square to my residence unassisted).

Career goals

I’ve had a lingering interest in augmented reality and similar technologies for a few years. Over that past couple of months I’ve gained some clarity about what I want to do—research in human-centered computing.

To achieve this I intend to go to grad school, TBD where that will take me. For now, I have two exciting developments towards this path.

Local research

As an honors student, I will be completing an honors research project or thesis with a faculty member. UMass has a relatively new human-computer interaction professor who I got in touch with. She seems very nice and is working on some interesting social computing projects.

Coincidentally, when I asked if she knew of anyone working with augmented reality, she told me that her husband (who also started working at UMass) is doing exactly that, and he has been looking for help. I’ll hear more about that later. I feel like a scored a great connection to do what really interests me for this significant undertaking.

Summer research

Even more exciting, I just accepted an offer for a very competitive undergraduate research program in Texas where I’ll be working on assistive technology for people with disabilities. Assitive technology fits right in the family of human-centered computing. It’s at the forefront of innovative technologies and sounds like a great fit for my future goals. I was paranoid about having no summer opportunities after declining to return to my old lucrative (but ill-fitting) internship, so I was thrilled to get into my top research program.

Next week—Morocco!

I’m not expecting to have internet.

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