Doubly protected biker

I just saw a man (maybe a professor of some sort) biking around campus. What struck me was that he seemed to be wearing a complicated looking brown helmet. Upon closer inspection, I noticed he was actually wearing a floppy brown wide-brimmed hat clipped in under a brown helmet.

I was amused by his commitment to protecting himself from both the sun and any cranial impacts. Unfortunately I didn’t capture an image, but I think the mental imagery as well as our constructed stories of what type of person he may be are pretty amusing too 🙂

Homemade salad that I like

I’ve recently created a salad that I actually really enjoyed eating, and could see myself eating quite frequently, especially since I’m back at school now and most of the food sucks. It’s quite simple, and the most important ingredient is the dressing – Kewpie Deep-Roasted Sesame Dressing, which I purchased at some random Japanese grocery store in SF’s Japantown. It looks like you can also buy it online, which I definitely plan to do when I run out of my current bottle! To that, I added some arugula (my favorite green) and some kimchi!

I’ve “prepared” it twice already, once in my room and once for on-the-go. For the latter, I packed it in a small mason jar with the dressing on the bottom, the arugula in the middle, and the kimchi on the top and ate it during class yesterday (I had straight classes from 11 – 4:20!). It was still fresh (and delicious) though it had been in my backpack, without any sort of refrigeration for a few hours. Also, it surprisingly mostly smelled of the sesame dressing and not the kimchi when I pulled it out, which I was grateful for 🙂

 

 

How I started enjoying art

Art is great because it’s accessible by nature. You can literally just look at it and see whatever it is. It’s easier to grasp than literature, which can sometimes require you to know certain vocabulary and also require more time/some patience. 

I hate how many things have become so “intellectualized.” A big part of the reason I didn’t like art when I was younger was because of my English classes in middle and high school. They were pretty bad at encouraging you to come up with your own opinions. I remember I once turned in a quiz (on something related to Egyptian mythology) in 10th grade English, and I got pissed because I got marked off for a “defend your answer”- type question. When I asked the teacher why my answer was wrong, she essentially gave me a “because I said so” response. There were many instances of teachers saying “as long as you provide compelling supporting evidence, I’ll accept it,” but not following through. I think this contributed to me internalizing a narrative of me not being able to form my own opinions on things that require interpretation. Standardized testing probably didn’t help with that either.

A big realization that helped me let go of that narrative is that the intention of the creator can be completely different from what you actually get from a work. You don’t have to read into all the symbolism and the inspiration from other artworks and the context of the piece within the movement. (If you do want to learn about those though, audio guides have been serving me pretty well.) I think all that should matter is what you want to get from that piece. In particular, how does it make you feel? 

One of the things I’ve begun to really appreciate about art is how it can serve as a shot of feeling. That’s why well designed monuments are so powerful, and I think it’s great that monuments are usually designed to be quite accessible. However, you can experience other art that way if you change your mental frame to “what can I get from this?” And pssst – you can get nothing and just walk away.

Feeding swans in Geneva

Before we start, I have to say that I didn’t know that feeding swans bread was harmful to them at the time. We Googled what swans eat and the first result included bread. Lesson relearned: Don’t take everything on the internet at face value! I feel guilty about feeding them bread, but there’s nothing I can do about it at this point.

That aside, the experience was quite interesting. I hadn’t actually seen swans in the wild before, so seeing them in Geneva was a pleasant surprise. They’re so beautiful. We bought a baguette at the Sunday farmer’s market and probably used up 1/5 of it feeding the swans (~30?). There were also pigeons and ducks and birds that we inadvertently fed.

At first, I was just taking chunks of bread and throwing them into the water. What happened was somewhat interesting and sad. Some of the swans started biting each others necks – I think to scare off competition? You could definitely start to tell that the swans had different personalities and levels of alpha-ness.

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A swan in the process of biting another swan.

I continued feeding them even though I felt sad about causing them to attack each other; most of it was out of curiosity, some of it was probably out of sadism. I started getting more creative with how I fed them. I put bread on the ground, instead of in the water, to see how close they would get to me. Some of the swans wouldn’t even try to get the bread, but some stretched out their necks very far and successfully got the bread! Even though you know swans have long necks on some level, it was still shocking to see them in action, fully stretched out.

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Come to me!

Another thing I tried was holding the baguette upside down – I held onto the bagged end of the baguette and left a section of bread at the bottom unexposed. A swan actually bit a piece off the baguette! I don’t know what I was expecting with that one. The last experiment I tried was to hold a piece of bread and move it up and down to see the swan neck stretch (and to see if I could make it fly a little!). Well, I guess I got what was coming to me with that one and a swan bit me. A duck actually bit me when I was a kid, so getting bitten again by a duck-billed creature brought me back. I was surprised later when I saw someone else, who was feeding the swans popcorn out of their hand (which can’t be good for them either…), get bitten several times without trying to prevent it from happening again.

Most of the happiness I got from feeding the swans was very similar to the feeling of feeding cats at the cat café I went to in Tokyo: getting attention/”affection” from cute creatures. Deep down you know that they’re only using you to get food though. I would probably do this again if I’m ever in an area with swans, with food that is more suitable for them.

My first Reformation experience

I visited the Reformation store in SF (on Valencia) before my trip to Europe to buy some 80/90 degree-weather appropriate clothing. It was Reformation’s 4th brick-and-mortar store, out of the 6 stores now in existence.

I was really confused when I walked into the store; I had walked past it multiple times but this was my first time actually entering. There were several other customers in the store, and their behavior was abnormal in a way that I couldn’t pinpoint. I am terrible at asking for help from customer service reps that aren’t in-your-face friendly, so I just started browsing the racks and pulled a dress off to try on.

A sales associate quickly came over and semi-explained the system to me: she’d create a virtual dressing room, and I should notify her to add anything to the room. She asked for my name and added that dress to the room after verifying what size I wanted, and then put the dress back on the rack and walked away. I was a bit confused at this point, and thought, “I have to get her every time I see something I like?!” so I continued browsing without adding anything else to my virtual dressing room.

At this point I was feeling pretty deflated, but decided to see what the touch screen monitors (I think there are two in the sales room) were about, since the people occupying them had left. As I played around with one, I became excited because it (for the most part) integrated the conveniences of online shopping, like filtering by in-store size availability, seeing the items on sale, and viewing all the colors of a particular item, with the convenience of being able to try things on in stores (and not having to do the returns switcheroo). From there, I added several things to my virtual fitting room, clicked a button saying I was ready to try them on, and walked towards the dressing rooms.

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It was pretty magical when I went to get a fitting room, until I thought about it and figured out the source of the magic. Here’s what went down: a sales associate asked for my name and then went away somewhere, and then told me that my room was ready shortly after. I was confused because I didn’t see her go into the dressing room at all! But when I went in, everything I had requested was in a little closet inside. Magic!

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I felt like a kid in a candy store – they even had several different lighting options and a plug you could use to play music from your phone. I started trying things on, still mesmerized by how it all happened, when someone opened and (rapidly) closed the  back of the closet while I was changing. Notice the seam at the back of the closet. The source of the magic – a back room and a back door – had been revealed, and real life was more disappointing than whatever my imagination had conjured.

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There’s a touch screen in the dressing room, similar to the one in the sales room but smaller, where you can also add new items and get new sizes, which is handy!

The checkout procedure is pretty typical of stores trying to imitate the Apple experience, where an associate just rings you up on their phone and can email you the receipt. I also chuckled internally when I noticed that they offer Boxed Water to customers.

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Overall, I liked the experience after I started using the touch screen, and I see where Reformation is trying to go with the store. I do have several ideas about how the UX could be improved, but I was mainly only interested in talking about my experience in this post.

Why I’m restarting my blog

The reason is actually pretty simple, but I wanted to have a public explanation in writing.

I visited the Bauhaus-Archiv in Berlin, and they had a wonderful special exhibition on the works of Jasper Morrison. There were two parts to the exhibit: one was Thingness, a retrospective that showed various works of furniture and other everyday objects that Morrison had created or collaborated on over the last 35 years; and the other was The Good Life, a selection of photo essays from his book of the same name. I really enjoyed reading about the Morrison’s design/thought processes in Thingness, but I was truly ~inspired~ by The Good Life.

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In each of the photo essays in The Good Life, Morrison writes about something that he noticed and photographed – he reflects on why that thing piqued his interest and imagines what sorts of conditions caused it to come in existence. I’m doing an awful job describing them – you’d probably get a better sense by reading a couple.

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I was fascinated by these seemingly simple photo essays, and they made me want to write content that evokes similar feelings.

In many aspects of my life, I’ve been appreciating the truth of clichés more. And in this case, I’m reminded of the advice of successful content creators: “Create the content that you want to see.” I don’t know when my attitude towards blogging became so formal and rigorous and constrained, but now I know I want to do less of that and instead write in a way that’s actually enjoyable to me, about content that I actually enjoy.