blue apron v. being green

I’ve turned downright domestic. Dear self, what was your Friday night like? Oh, nothing much, just cooked. And baked. And vacuumed. And did laundry. And re-potted my tomato plant. And planted green onions. And built a rocking chair. No joke.

Stop me now.

So. My sister gave me one of those free trials for Blue Apron, and I was like: Cool, I’ll sign up! No grocery shopping! No lugging heavy bags ! I can try new recipes! I’ll eat healthier! And it was pretty cool. The food is good, I learned new things, tried new things, and all was well.

I stuck with it for a bit, but now I’m planning to cancel the service. Why? Because Blue Apron is an extravagance. I’m not so busy that I can’t go to the grocery store, veggies and meat are far cheaper elsewhere, and there are a million and a half recipes on the world wide web. And Blue Apron’s excessive packaging drives me nuts. So much packaging! Oy. Of course the cardboard and all those plastic containers can be recycled, but you know what’s better than recycling? Not having it in the first place. Plus, that Nordic Ice gel stuff that does a great job keeping the meat cold? Blue Apron’s instructions for disposal are to empty the gel into the trash, which just makes me feel all cringe-y inside. It’s nice that everything is so well packaged to keep the food fresh (although many a tomato has been found squashed at the bottom of a package), but it’s truly excessive. No thank you. I’ll go to the grocery store.

Over the years I’ve become more eco-conscious, although I’m still a far cry from a tree-hugger. Living in the big city where there’s lots and lots of people and lots and lots of concrete, I value the environment so much more than when I was growing up, where space and fresh air were aplenty. Have you ever stood on a black asphalt street on a sweltering New York summer day and smelled the *lovely* in-your-face smell of hot piles of trash, oozing with rotting food? Yeah … well enough of those days and you’ll start thinking that everyone needs to waste less, recycle more, and compost more. And why not? You can’t possibly be that busy not to.

But … if you are interested in giving Blue Apron a try, let me know! I have three free meals I can share.

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eclipse revelation: what the heck am i doing?

On Monday, the moon covered the sun. Here in New York there was no full eclipse, no moment of complete darkness. As I was busily working away in the office, the world out the window seemed same ol’ same ol’. But a bunch of colleagues went to hang out on the street outside, so I joined them. And I put on a pair of those special glasses. And I saw the eclipse, the partial 71% that we got. And it looked like darkness and fire. And all I could think was: wow. Wow. And then I thought: What the heck am I doing? Was my careful editing of that marketing text really so important that I was almost going to miss the FREAKING ECLIPSE?

Some days, days like these days, I wonder: What the heck am I doing? I’ve always tended towards apathy, but it’s getting ridiculous. In a span of six years, I moved from Texas to Shanghai to New York back to Shanghai and back to New York again, all in the search of new challenges. And now? The standard answer is that I’m in New York because I love New York (and I do), and that it’s the best mix of homey Texas and chaotic Shanghai (and it is), but being in New York also means that I don’t have to anything outstanding, because there’s so much going on already that it’s easy to just go with the flow. New York means I can use words like ‘adulting’, wear nice clothes at my nice job, have a glass (or three) at French wine bars, blend with all the other aimless millennials, let all my ambitions and plans slowly fade away, and pretend that I’m right where I ought to be.

But what happened to all that other stuff? Have I *gasp* settled? No more. I’m going to revive this poor little blog. I’m going to take up freelance work. I’m going to get back into creating, shaping, thinking, writing, discussing, learning, and being out there. I’m going to be me again … the me I want to be. That’s what I’m going to do. So thank you moon, for blocking out the sun. It truly was amazing.

(Note: That’s not to say I’m going to give up wine and stop being occasionally superficial … I still am a millennial after all.)

pokemon go: the suburban v. urban

In the city, people tend to make fun of the suburbs, rolling their eyes when they say the word. I’ll admit, I sometimes do the same when there’s mention of moving to New Jersey or Long Island for more space. But although I may act like an urbanite, I grew up in the suburbs and I like the suburbs. I may say I’m “from Houston,” but I’ve never lived in Houston, only in the cities that were half an hour, some almost an hour away. In the suburbs, you knew your neighbors and could play in the street and life was good. These days, however, I’m all about the city. Now that I’m older and working, my life is about pursuing and exploring – opportunities, friends, culture, and everything in between.

So yes, I once loved the suburbs and still kinda like it, but the comfort and stability of the ‘burbs just can’t compare to the energy and variety of the big ol’ city. So here are what I think are the major advantages and disadvantages of the suburban and urban environments … explained through my playing of Pokemon Go in each:

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The Suburban Environment: See any pokestops? Nope. Any pokemon? Nope. If you’re out on the hunt, you’re sorry out of luck. You wanna know why? Because it’s the suburbs. There’s nothing there. So just chill. Look at all those single family houses! The wide open space to roam around in! No crowds of tourists flocking to swipe a finger on a screen to collect virtual objects. No trash on the street or scaffolding poles you need to weave to avoid.

In the suburbs there’s no need to have your phone constantly in hand, because there’s not going to be a constant stream of emails and texts that you need to respond to right that second, and there’s not going to be some awesome pokemon just around the corner. And since you’re driving everywhere anyway, forget about hatching any eggs. You got real eggs in the fridge, because you go to Costco and can buy real eggs for cheap. People in the suburbs have better things to do than play a game like Pokemon Go.

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The Urban Environment: There’s everything you could possibly want, and a lot of things you don’t. Density takes on new meaning with a sea of pokestops within a stone’s throw, lure modules (signs of nearby people), and all manner of creatures, with rats (rattatas) and pigeons (pidgeys) every which way.

You’re constantly in the shadow of a high-rise, having your senses overwhelmed by lights and random things that pop up, and comparing yourself to the high levels and impressive pokemons of those you see at the gym. And you’re constantly on the move and multi-tasking: commuting, getting exercise, listening to music, catching pokemon, and hatching eggs. People might think you’re weird when they see you’re playing Pokemon Go, but you don’t care because you make your own decisions in life, so you just play on.

the upcoming election and what it’s revealed

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For anyone who’s read more than two posts on this blog has realized, I don’t offer much personal information on here. I don’t use full names. I generally talk about places and events rather than the specifics of my life. You can easily glean some information about where I live, went to school, and what kind of work I do, and probably have an idea about my personality and what I care about, but I try to stay away from current events and issues like politics. But … I just gotta chime in.

This election is driving me nuts. So forgive me, but I feel the need to rant. Last year, when Trump announced his run for president, I was living in Shanghai. All my non-American friends were joking about how crazy it was and what it would be like if Trump was president. I laughed it off, because Trump as president? What a complete joke. It was a complete farce. At this point, however, it’s no longer funny. It’s just frightening and saddening and frustrating. Was I living in a blissfully ignorant bubble before? I never knew there was so much hatred and divisiveness in this country. I never realized how close-minded, how naive, how sinfully prideful, and how ill-informed so many Americans are about how the government works and what’s actually going on in the world. Are Americans truly the “stupid, uncultured Americans” that the rest of the world stereotypes us as?

This evening I was on the phone with a very fast-talking man who was taking a survey for CNN. Normally I don’t bother with phone surveys, but since I’m just chilling at home and this election cycle has made me so aggravated, I answered. Who am I voting for? Hillary. What is your opinion of Trump? Unfavorable. What is your opinion of Hillary? Unfavorable. Who do I trust more? Oy. I reluctantly answered: Hillary. Who shares my values more? I couldn’t pick one. Neither. Do you think Trump’s comments in that video are reflect his opinions as a whole? Yes. Are you registered? Yes. With a party? Republican. Position? Conservative.

I vote on the issues. Honestly, I do. So it might seem weird, maybe even blasphemous to some hardcore right-wingers that I’m crossing the aisle. But I’m not alone. Yes personality is playing a role in my opinion, but position is far more important to me. To put it simply, Trump’s positions are not only infeasible, but dangerous. I’m not voting for Hillary as much as I’m voting against Trump. I’m not voting for liberal policies as much as I’m voting to avoid World War III. To avoid nuclear war. To avoid the loss of foreign alliances. To avoid a downfall of our national security. To avoid a civil war. To avoid a collapse of our economy. To avoid a loss of progress and talent. To avoid martial law and riots and internal destruction. To avoid a culture of fear and distrust. I’m voting to maintain the tenuous balance we have now. To maintain a semblance of rationality. To give us some stoppage time to re-evaluate.

On Sunday I watched the second presidential debate with some friends. All of them are Democrats except for one. My Republican friend and I commiserated. He’s not voting. He said he can’t vote for someone who he doesn’t believe in, a position which I respect, but can’t bring myself to hold. It is extremely disheartening to cast my vote for Hillary Clinton when I don’t want her to be president, but my desire to keep Trump away from the presidency outweighs my desire to vote for someone I believe in. And that makes me truly, truly sad. During the debate I was muttering and yelling and stress eating like mad. And mostly at Trump, at a guy who is supposed to be “my” candidate and represent “my” side. My Democrat friends, not all of whom are Hillary supporters, were also complaining throughout the debate, but even if they don’t wholeheartedly endorse Hillary, they’re still on board with the broad strokes. They may sympathize with my situation of voting for someone I’m not gung-ho about, but I don’t know if they fully understand the internal conflict, to have someone you are so against be labeled “your” candidate. I usually don’t get so worked up about the election, because although I disagree with the liberal position, I see their stance, I understand their logic, and I respect the candidates as people. I just usually disagree with fundamental ideas of what constitutes an unalienable right, or to what degree equality can or should be enforced, or how much faith you can place in people’s innate goodness. But I have always seen most candidates as people striving to improve this country who just happen to have different ideas than my own. I can’t say the same for Trump.

As much as I am a proud conservative and believe in low taxes, small government, and states’ rights, the United States of America is a nation for a reason. The federal government exists for a reason and it has its role. In today’s global economy with global issues of terrorism and refugee crises and political upheavals every which way, we may look to the protectionist, closed-border, xenophobic idea as one that would solve all our problems. And, like communism, it does seem great. But, like communism, it’s perfect only in theory. How do you expect our multinational corporations to function? How do you expect a nation built upon immigration and diversity to function? How do you expect the United States of America to give up on its own American dream? How do you lose so much hope that you give in to the fear?

hei/hey there!

When I was living in China, I met a ton of non-native English speakers. Not only Chinese people, but also a lot of European foreigners, many of whom had a very tenuous grasp of the English language. Some of their English was near-native. Some of their English downright sucked. But even if their speech was flawless, spelling and written grammar often proved massive hurdles.

I’m not disparaging them in the least. Goodness knows my Mandarin is merely decent and my French is just a step above abysmal. To even know (or attempt) a second language is a massive feat—one that many, many Americans don’t even bother trying. So when I got a letter from A, a French woman who has lived in China for a really long time, I couldn’t help but smile at her opening: Hei.

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I’m guessing she was going for “Hey.” The funny thing is that in China, “Hei” that would actually be somewhat correct. “Hey” is a loanword that many young people use, and when written in Chinese, the character 嘿 (hēi) is used. The character is basically just a sound word/interjection that places a 口 (mouth symbol) next to 黑 (word for the color black), visually representing the sound (but not meaning) of the word for black. And when written in pinyin (romanized), it’s h-e-i.

So basically, it’s kinda like playing telephone. From English to Chinese to Chinese-tinged Franglais, hey becomes 嘿 which becomes hei.

how to use the laundry room

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Ah, the convenience of an in-unit washer/dryer … how I miss thee! Having to trudge downstairs with a basket full of laundry makes me think back to my college days, and not in a good way. Plus, the laundry in my new place is crazy expensive. As in $3 for a wash and $2.75 for a dry. SERIOUSLY? It is such a rip-off, I feel like I’m being fleeced, but I’m not barbaric enough to go without washing my stuff.

When I lived in Astoria, I had to use the coin laundromat around the corner, which was annoying but not as bad as you might imagine because I was only working part-time that summer, which means I never did laundry during the rush periods and I had the time to chill and read a book while waiting. In the grand scheme of things, laundry in-building isn’t too bad either, but between carrying your giant basket, debating where to wait, hoping that no one takes your stuff, and praying that there are machines open … it does get to be a bit frustrating.

But seriously people, there are some basic rules of communal laundry:

  1. Don’t hog the washers or dryers. Yeah it’s convenient to do all five loads at once and block out the dryers, but if you’re doing that, you really should do laundry more often OR not do laundry at peak times! That’s rude. If you’re going to treat the place like your own personal washing room, invest in an apartment with an in-unit instead.
  2. Keep it clean. Or at least try to. While doing laundry is inherently about cleanliness, laundry rooms aren’t the cleanest places. Somehow there’s always spilled detergent and lint and soggy lost socks everywhere. If you’re cleaning out the lint trap, use the trashcan, because that’s what it’s there for. Don’t just bang it against the side of the machine and send lint into the air.
  3. Don’t leave your laundry in a washer or dryer! After that buzzer beeps, you get a maximum five minutes to make your way over before the machine becomes free game. If all the machines are full and there’s one with already-cleaned stuff that’s just been sitting there, I will dump the wet pile into a basket and no one will judge me. I don’t want to touch your stuff, you don’t want me to touch your stuff, but if I need to use the machine and you’re not responsible enough to be on time to remove your own stuff, you and I will both just have to deal with it.
  4. Don’t touch my stuff. This may seem to go against #3, but as long as I’m abiding by the other rules, don’t touch my stuff. If I happen to leave my laundry detergent there (which I never do anymore), don’t use it. If I happen to leave my laundry basket there (which I rarely do anymore), don’t use it. You know what you should do instead? Invest in laundry detergent and a laundry basket.

Rant completed.

architecture randomness (tbt)

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Back when I was at Columbia I used to sit in on a lot of the lectures hosted by GSAPP, and attended one that I made a note of. I shall now share:

Date: April 04, 2013
Setting: Wood Auditorium, Columbia University, New York
Event: “Converse” – Conversation between Mark Wigley and Wang Shu

Wigley was TORTURING this conversation about hard versus soft for what seemed to be forever. I was over it, I’m sure most of the audience was over it, and maybe even Wang Shu was over it (or at least he seemed kind of confused). Wang had brought up that he practices calligraphy in the morning before he begins pencil sketching his designs … and Wigley took off from there, trying to conceptualize Wang’s process. Then Wang mentioned that the first thing is actually making tea, which comes before the calligraphy, which Wigley took as the ultimate soft (id est, the liquid) that transitioned to the semi-soft (ink and brush) and then to the hard (pencil). In other words, this was a really weird conceptual sort of conversation and this particular topic went on much longer than it should have. But then:

Wigley: How hard is your pencil?

Wang: 1H.

[Laughter from Audience]

Maybe you had to be there? I think it was funny because of the literalness and simple specificity with which Wang Shu answered compared to Wigley’s all over the place hard-soft monologue. And the fact that an H pencil isn’t all that hard. Don’t get me wrong, I love Wigley … but this was not one of his finest moments.

Oh, and if you’re wondering why this post started with a picture of an alpaca/llama, it’s because it’s also random and somewhat Columbia/architecture-related. It was a Saturday, I was stressed and sleep deprived because the end of the year was nearing, and I was on my way to studio to work on my thesis. And then I ran into an alpaca/llama. Well, not literally ran into it. About a block from campus there was a street festival with bouncy castles and the alpaca/llama and I basically froze in shock. Because, seriously? How much more random can you get than seeing an alpaca/llama on your way to school? Or well, I actually have no idea if it was a llama or alpaca because I can’t tell the difference and didn’t stay long enough to ask. Anyone know for sure?

today’s google doodle: jane jacobs!

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Did you see today’s Google doodle!? It’s of Jane Jacobs! In full disclosure, as much as I would like to truly, fully geek out over this, I’ve only read bits and pieces of The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), which is primarily what she’s known for. Regardless, today is Jane Jacobs’s 100th birthday! Woot!

Basically anyone who’s ever even had a passing interest in urban studies or urban planning has heard of Jane Jacobs and her book. It really is that important. I’m not saying it’s great or that it’s the way to go, but it is something that should be read, or at least known about. Kudos to Google for acknowledging her influence and impact! However, in my estimation, it doesn’t quite rival the Google doodle of Viollet-le-Duc … because Eugène Viollet-le-Duc is hands down awesome in my mind, and his doodle was just classier.

i give you a spork. deal with it.

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Were hoping for something more profound? Since I haven’t posted in a helluva long time, one might expect my return to blogging to be some epiphany or something impressively revelatory. Sorry, but no. Instead, I offer you a picture of a spork.

You wanna know why? Well, you know how there are forks in the road? Well, my life is like a spork right now. There are new paths and opportunities and challenges in front of me, but the tines aren’t really that far apart and they aren’t really proper tines anyhow (oh plastic spork!), so even though things will soon be changing massively (from spoon to fork!), it doesn’t seem that big a deal (just a simple ol’ spork). The spork is actually a kinda amazing utensil even though it’s often derided as a silly little thing. It’s kinda like a fork, kinda like a spoon, kinda ridiculous, kinda hard to eat with, but still super useful and kinda clever. Why have two utensils when you can have one?

I hope this post has enlightened you. I doubt it, but whatever.

two benjamins: crazy-colored and well-traveled

This is probably old news to most Americans, but I’ve been in China for the last two years so I’m not very accustomed to the new banknotes. And seriously? The new 100-dollar bill is weird. I mean … the COLORS! The blue! The orange! They’re supposed to be green. That’s what makes American money so special and wonderfully confusing to foreigners: they’re all the same size and all the same color – green.

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Can you still call them greenbacks or lettuce if they’re now multi-colored? Well I guess we call them ‘dead presidents’ even though Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin weren’t presidents, so like practically everything else with the English language … why not? I know the craziness is due to anti-counterfeit measures, but it’s still weird to see something so established change. THEY SHOULD BE GREEN! Sigh.

After calming down from the shock of color (id est, colors other than green), I noticed that the two c-notes were stamped on the back with a blue mark in Arabic. A US note from a Chinese bank with an Arabic stamp? Huh?

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After a bit of online Googling, I found out that it’s called a ‘chop mark’ and is still fairly common for currency circulating abroad, especially in the Middle East and Asia. Basically it’s a little stamp that someone (a private person or money trader, not the government) uses to indicate authenticity so they don’t have to constantly re-check if it’s real or not. Interesting, eh? In all my life in the States I’d never seen one, but then again, I never did handle many 100-dollar notes.

So I guess at some point these two Benjamins made their way through the Middle East. Ah, the curious travels of US cash.