eating lunch … at my desk :(

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I remember this one article that said that although eating lunch away from your desk is incredibly important psychologically, employees’ satisfaction levels are also correlated to whether or not they had a choice in eating at or away from their desks. Makes sense, right? Mind breaks are important, but so too is the freedom to choose for yourself. And I totally get it. Being forced to eat at your desk is a double whammy of suckage.

I usually don’t mind eating at my desk. In past jobs (architecture firms) we always had the choice to eat at our desks or the meeting/kitchen table depending on if you were working or wanted to socialize, but since deadlines were constantly fast approaching, it was pretty common for us to order in food, eat at our desks, and chat while eating/working. Here, we always eat in the kitchen because we share a single (albeit partitioned) office table that is viewable to passersby. We have to eat in shifts and I find it incredibly mind-numbing to eat while staring at a white wall, but as long as I have my phone to watch Coursera lectures or read some emails, I’m fine.

But when everyone else goes for a meeting and I’m alone and am forced to eat lunch at my desk in order to keep an eye on the door? That bites. Especially when it’s a slow day. There’s only so much BuzzFeed, DailyMail, and BoredPanda one can read before one’s mind goes completely numb. The sandwich was good though. Wagas never fails.

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let the non-relaxing vacation begin!

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I often say I’m busy, which is true, but it’s not entirely accurate. You see, I do have stuff to do, but it’s not really so much in terms of quantity, but its timing really, really sucks, so I am stressed out beyond belief. Today is the start of my vacation to Qingdao, I’m sitting here in the airport sleep-deprived and a bit nauseous, and the only thing I can think of is: I really should have brought my laptop with me, I’ve got work to do!

Oy. Here’s hoping the hostel has good wifi. Things were busy but manageable last week, they just kinda snowballed in the last few days. I probably should stay at home and be a good little worker bee, but here I am at good ol’ PVG anyhow because I need a vacation. I did pack a bluetooth keyboard and mouse to connect to my phone, which should make finishing work a bit easier, but … oh who am I kidding? This is going to majorly suck. What a depressing way to start a vacation.

And it is absurdly early. I hate mornings. Bah humbug.

red maos make china go ’round

October 1st was National Day, for which we got a one-week holiday as one of China’s two Golden Weeks. But that’s over and done with, and now it’s work work work. So here’s a picture of money. It’s Mao! Because this is why all of China basically shut down for a week and why we’re all back to toiling away.

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Red Maos are the 100 RMB banknote in China, and even though they’re the highest-denomination note, they’re worth less than 20 USD. Credit cards are becoming more widely used, but cash is still more widely used, especially among older people. Which is super annoying because you end up carrying a fair number of bills and it just feels oh so sketchy. Or worse, you end up stuck at the bank waiting behind a line of old ladies with stacks and stacks of bills that need to go through the counting machine. And as opposed to when I was in China three/four years ago, I have yet to encounter a fake bill! Progress!

And in related news: I’m going to be working in Shanghai for at least one more year!

printing cmyk

I got to say, getting things professionally printed is kind of cool but oh so tedioius. Clicking ‘print’ on your home computer this is not. CMYK for a long time was an annoyance (since I usually work with digital-only), but it is pretty cool to adjust colors in actual print and see the difference on paper rather than just the screen. However, it is super annoying to have to compromise on the colors when they’re perfect on the screen. No printing or controlling the color image by image allowed, it’s four pages at a time, honey.

And the process takes forever! Just give me the book already! Seriously! I spent six hours at the printer’s, and probably did a total of about half an hour’s work. The rest was waiting. And I’m still not happy with the colors. Le sigh.

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american english is the correct english

Did you ever see such a controversial statement? Granted I’m biased, but American English seems to be the preferred (or at least more prevalent) form of English in the world. In the process of writing a bunch of text for work, I’ve been slowly but diligently switching every piece of the gallery’s written material into American English. American English for the win! Hoorah! Go USA!

When I first started, I didn’t want to rock the boat so I tried following the existing standards, but that quickly got confusing. So instead of going back after typing each paragraph to add in extra letters or remove commas, I went ahead and switched it all. Now ‘color’, ‘center’, ‘organize’, and ‘traveled’ are all spelled correctly. Oh, and the biggie: ‘one, two and three’ has become ‘one, two, and three’. Oh yes. Ladies and gentlemen, I have introduced the serial comma and there is no turning back now.

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This is Panel 3 of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., which is hodgepodged from a bunch of different sources. It’s only making an appearance in this blog post to facilitate a transition in topic.

The nearby Panel 1 is a somewhat butchered excerpt of the Declaration of Independence, but as in the official text, it lacks the serial comma. How un-American! The Declaration of Independence famously says “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Capitalization done in the style of the time (with nouns capitalized) and no serial comma. But did you realize that there’s a different version? I quoted from the text of the signed, handwritten version, which is considered the official version, but the printed version has “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” and Jefferson’s rough draft has the serial comma too! He was a patriot!

Regardless, all is forgiven because this was two centuries ago, and the CMOS had not yet been established. Yay American English! Yay Chicago!

what’s in a name?

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet

– William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet (II.2.47-48)

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I’ve been working at an art gallery here in Shanghai for the past few months, and in that time I have been [job untitled], curatorial assistant, art director, and now curator. My friends on LinkedIn and Facebook are probably as confused as I am. Well, my main responsibility is organizing the exhibitions – coming up with exhibition themes, writing press releases, and deciding on titles. And you know what? Titles are hard! It’s nerve-wracking to try encapsulating a whole idea (of someone else’s work) in a few words. Thank goodness there are nifty sites like this generator to help.

Because I’ve switched from architecture to the art field, I’m discovering a whole different way of looking at and talking about the world. I still consider myself an architect in many ways, but I’m trying to learn the lingo, this so-called International Art English (of which there was a big hulabaloo about), referred to elsewhere as artspeak or “The Joke That Forgot It Was Funny.” Oh gosh. Architects are known for having their own jargon and sometimes talking in a pompous holier-than-thou manner (quoting Foucault with wild abandon for instance), but in general are much more down to earth because they have real things to deal with, like gravity.

But art? Well that’s a whole different ballgame. Oy. I barely followed the Foucault crap. Happy Valentine’s Day! Happy Lantern Festival! The picture is of roses from the Queens Botanical Garden when I went last summer with my grandmother. You know, back when times were simple and a rose was just a rose ….

mmmm … wagas

Ugh. I’m exhausted. Sooooo much going on. And I’m behind on so many things! Uh oh. I have a whole host of partially-prepared posts, but I just don’t have the time to finish them up. So here’s a picture of food. Yum. Yay.

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This is a picture of a chicken panini … or rather a “chicken, bacon bits and sun-dried tomato salad with avocado leaves” on “Turkish panini” from Wagas. Mmmm … Wagas. For those not in the know, Wagas is a chain of restaurants in China that’s pretty popular with the Western crowd. Why? Because it’s Western food (sandwiches, salads, wraps), the food is good/clean/consistent, and their restaurant spaces are more appealing to a foreign crowd – casual/comfy decor, clean, higher-end locations, and free wi-fi. Prices are at a manageable expat level (about 50 RMB for a sandwich), so I only eat it every now and then ’cause I ain’t on an expat salary. But they do delivery! When I was waiting for the internet at my apartment to get set up, I spent a fair amount of time at Wagas for the wi-fi. Good food and good atmosphere but not so good on the wallet. I recommend their spinach wraps – the chicken curry is absolutely delish.

Now off to finish some of my overdue work (for Company A)! Or maybe some of that deadline-approaching freelance work (for Company B)! Or … maybe I should sleep? I have to go into the office early tomorrow morning (for Company C). Argh. Decisions, decisions. Ah, it’s cold. And now I’m hungry.

hey little man, can you wait a tad bit longer?

So … I’m in China. Sounds exciting, right? Well, eh. When I went to Beijing at the end of June I stopped by Shanghai and left a daruma doll in the apartment – one eye filled in. The daruma doll is a good luck talisman of sorts. You’re supposed to fill in one eye when you make a goal, and when you’ve reached the goal you get to fill the other eye in. So by having a one-eyed creepy little doll staring at you, it encourages you to keep working at your goal. It’s supposedly a traditional Japanese thing (all my information is coming from Wikipedia), and even though I’m not Japanese (and have no knowledge of this thing outside what Wikipedia is telling me), I like the premise of having a visual, physical signifier of a wish. Post-it notes and to-do lists I have. But those are about tasks; this is about a goal.

I’ll fill in the other eye once I have stable employment that I’m happy with. At the moment, no bites. A short little gig teaching English? Yep. But that ain’t gonna pay the rent. Needless to say, it ain’t gonna make much of a dent in the student loans either. Wish me luck! (I’ll need it.)

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back in china. alive. somewhat.

Today is the first of September, and it’s been over a month since my last post. Wanna know why? Because I’ve left New York. Lots of moving and stuff. And I’m now in China. I’ve actually been in China for a few weeks now, but I was busy running a workshop up in Beijing for a week, and now I’m trying to get settled in Shanghai.

I’m still doing some work for the architecture firm I worked at over the summer, so that gives me some stuff to do … but I haven’t been able to find a full-time job yet, and this prolonged unemployment is making me very nervous! Also, I’ve resorted to posting by email once again because I’m trying to see how long I can hold out without a VPN service. Ah, Great Firewall of China, I bow to you once more! I have a whole backlog of posts from New York and Beijing to get through … so be prepared for an onslaught in the coming days.

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The above picture is from “Ghost Street” (簋街 / Gui Jie) in Beijing.

snow again – for realz!

Today, New York City was snowing her little head off. Woo! It’s been all over the news; these are supposedly “blizzard conditions” … but not really – at least not in Manhattan so far. When I left for work this morning it was snowing (sideways), when I got to work it was sleeting (sideways), when I actually started working it was raining (sideways). My temporary desk faces the window, so I was watching stuff fall (sideways) from the sky all day. Kind of hard to concentrate! No one wanted to go out for lunch so we ordered some pizzas and ate together at the big conference table, which was nice. Then the rain suddenly turned into snow! It was snowing! And it kept snowing!

And then I left work. It was still snowing, but … ew. Dirty slushy slippery snow ain’t great to walk around in. It’s still snowing and it’s supposed to continue through the night, so I wonder what it’s going to look like when I wake up. Right now there’s only about an inch on the ground because all the sidewalks had been heavily salted since yesterday. As much as I hope there’s a lot of snow, tomorrow morning I need to head to campus and then trek over to Queens, so that might not be a very fun trip.

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