a city of islands: beaches and art

Sometimes I forget that New York City is a city of islands with easy access to water because I spend the far majority of my time surrounded by skyscrapers in Midtown or Lower Manhattan. But yes, Manhattan is an island. Queens and Brooklyn are part of Long Island (a rather giant island). Staten Island is an island. Only the Bronx is not an island … and coincidentally it’s also the only borough I’ve never been to. But there really is water everywhere. Which means beaches! And since it’s still New York, it also (sometimes) means art! Woot!

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The Rockaways (Rockaway Peninsula in Queens) were pretty devastated during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, so it’s nice to see how it’s recovered. Over at Fort Tilden is the site-specific installation Rockaway! by Katharina Grosse. Basically it’s an abandoned structure full of sand that got a spiffy red and white paint job. Cool. Kinda random, but still kinda cool. I mean, if it’s going to be abandoned, it might as well be pretty.

So far I’ve been to Rockaway Beach, which has a pretty spiffy new boardwalk, and Jacob Riis, which is less crowded with better/closer food options, but is harder to get to (we took the Beach Bus to Jacob Riis; Rockaway Beach is accessible by train). But getting out of the city in any manner feels AMAZING! And if I’m being technical about it, we never really left the “city” since we were in New York City the whole time!

Oh, and while at Rockaway Beach, we created a masterpiece. What do you get when a group of architects builds a sandcastle? Why, a ziggurat of course.

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Happy summer!

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!

merry christmas! poinsettias

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What is it about poinsettias that just screams “IT’S CHRISTMAS!”? It’s one of those weird flowers that you never ever see. And then in the lead-up to Christmas, they’re suddenly everywhere. They appear for the season, and then promptly disappear for the rest of the year until the next Christmas rolls around. So you can imagine my surprise at seeing a whole lotta poinsettias in Hong Kong’s Hollywood Road Park, gathered in a giant cluster, waiting to be spread around. Seeing those poinsettiaas – more than all the gaudy lights along Nanjing Road – that made it truly feel like Christmas.

Merry Christmas! I wish you and your families all the happiness and joy your hearts can handle.

camera near flame = bad bad bad

Melting candles are quite pretty. But however much you want to take a picture of the flame and melting candle, first think long and hard about the potential damage. Apparently digital cameras are not fond of extreme heat, did you know? So placing your camera near an open flame might cause it to temporary blank out, which can be quite scary (understatement). Thankfully after about five minutes (which seemed like a lifetime) my camera returned to normal and was able to take pictures that weren’t just blurs. Whew!

This is the photo that almost cost me $150.

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Oh, and my laptop died. And unlike my camera, it decided not to revive. No idea what happened. And no, I did not let my laptop play with fire. So while I’m not out that $150, I will very soon be out about $1000. FUN.

tutorial: pan chang chinese knot

[NOTE: This post originally appeared on a now-deleted blog and is being re-posted here for my own sake.]

In a previous post from a few years back, I made some Chinese knots for Chinese New Year 2010. Well, January 23, 2012, is the date for this year, and it’s fast approaching! I still had some of the same red cord from that previous project, so I decided to try and learn a new knot. And I picked a doozy of one called the Pan Chang knot.

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It took me a few times, but I finally got it. I had to get some cardboard and stick some pins in it to keep the cord where I wanted it, but in the end it turned out kind of cool. I had take more photos, but when you work at night and your room has incandescent lights and therefore a dim yellowish hue … it’s just too much work trying to make them presentable. Anyhow, I missed using Adobe Illustrator so much I decided to use the program to make a little guide. Yay.

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1. Get some cardboard stack it up (two or three layers so the pins stay in). Then following the guide, put pins where there are pink dots.

2. Get some cord/string that’s got some thickness (red is a lucky color). You’ll need about a yard … maybe more. In the middle, create a loop tied off with a knot. With one end, string the cord around the pins following the guide – stringing it vertically and then horizontally. Make sure to note when it goes over/under the already-laid cord.

3. With the other end of the cord, you’ll weave it through vertically and then horizontally. Again, make sure you take note when the cord is supposed to go over/under another one.

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4. And that should be that. Carefully pull the cord up from around the pins and carefully pull on the outer loops. After you get the center roughly squared away, then you can begin adjusting the length of the loops by slowly working the cord through the piece, tightening along the way. The original knotted loop should be tight to the center square, and the two side loops should be bigger than the four other ones.

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5. Voila! After all the tightening you’ll have to trim the ends of your cord. And then you can either leave the ends hanging or finish them off with some button knots.

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Whew. Wasn’t that fun? I don’t have enough cord to make another knot, so that’s it. It’s kind of a small thing to show for all the time and effort I put into making it. It was fun though. Once you make one successfully you can sort of understand how the knot is constructed. The one I made here has four rows, but you can easily expand the knot to have six or eight rows just by increasing the number of vertical and horizontal moves you make. Good luck! Wishing everyone a happy new year!

cherry red

Well, what do you know? It’s 2012 already. I’m back in the city and goodness gracious yep, everything is smaller and more expensive than in Texas. Today I went down to Chinatown for some grocery shopping and I bought some cherries from a vendor on the street. Two pounds for three dollars. I’m generally not a big fan of fruit, but I like me some cherries every now and then. Plus, it was two pounds for three dollars. That’s less than I paid for the subway trips.

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I’ve never liked the color red and I always wondered why the bright red hue is sometimes referred to as cherry red. Because in my mind, the color of a cherry has always been the color of a Bing cherry – a nice darkish red. Anyway, they’re pretty yummy. Some are kind of soft and some are kind of hard (I didn’t get to pick them, they just got thrown into a bag by the vendor) but they’re quite sweet. Still not a big fan of fruit, but I suppose one cannot survive on carbs and candy alone.

i just can’t take it

I’ve been told that I’m really sensitive. I’ve been told that I cannot hide my emotions at all. And then I’ve had people tell me that I’m an excellent liar. I’ve had someone tell me that it looks like I live a charmed life. I’ve had a teacher tell me that the phrase “still waters run deep” describes me. Basically what all of my rambling boils down to is that I just want to scream at someone, but I don’t … because part of me just will not let myself let go like that.

It’s the third week of school and already I feel like I might randomly snap and strangle someone. It’s happened before; it really might happen again. I know everyone has those moments when he/she feels out of place, completely misunderstood, like an outsider. And it might be better for me to speak up rather than merely letting things show on my face or build up inside until something bad happens. But I guess I trained myself a long time ago and old habits are hard to break.

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merry xmas!

It is finally Christmas! Just past midnight over here! Kind of a sorry Christmas, but whatever. Had a nice dinner with some family. They didn’t do the whole Christmas thing, which I understand (because this is China) but it still made me kind of sad. I still have lots to do between my applications, schoolwork, and work work, but today was nice. Below picture is from one of the islands at Qiandao.

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red green

Only about a week left for my applications. OH MY GOSH. Lots of stuff going on there. On the other hand, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Well, actually it’s not. There are some rather ostentatious Christmas displays out that I’ll have to take pictures of. But for the most part it’s pretty much non-Christmas.

Picture is from Hangzhou. And lookie, it’s green and red … wow, almost like I planned it. In Chinese, the phrase 红红绿绿的 literally translates to “red red green green” but translates more closely to “colorful.” Interesting, eh?

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some pillows bleed red

[NOTE: This post originally appeared on a now-deleted blog and is being re-posted here for my own sake.]

I haven’t posted in a long while, which I could blame on increased homework and studying for the GRE, but in reality I was just lazy. I had some fabric remnants from freshman year (that’s three years!) and I finally got fed up with it laying around and cut the red into pieces and sewed them together with some white cottony/plushy fabric and gray fleece. The result was a passable but boring pillow about 12″ square.

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Then, because I’m a perfectionist, I thought: That just won’t cut it. So I sewed on piece of black ribbon to make a bow. Yay. But then, because I’m also an idiot, I decided to wash it … forgetting that RED dyes tend to bleed RED, especially on WHITE. Oops.

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The white pieces are now more of a coral/pink tie-dye. Kind of ruins the effect I was going for, but it’s not that big of a deal. All in all, I’ll live. The pillow was meant as a floor cushion for myself because I tend to do all my work (like typing this post) while sitting on the floor.

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What I am annoyed about is that I washed that pillow WITH my comforter. I’ve had that comforter since I was really little and now there’s large red smears on it. Any solutions?

Happy March, everyone. Don’t be stupid like me.