30 November 2015


Am I sounding like a broken record about how I love the color rendition that velvia produces? Absolutely beautiful, especially the blue shadows. My loyalty to fuji is increasing everytime I look at these.

Had a short conversation with Gilly about post-processing. While I'm definitely pro-post, and love to tinker around (sometimes obsessively), it's nice to be able to minimally process OOC jpegs that already look good. All of the photos below (minus the pizza) is processed from jpeg, mostly lowering the exposure of the sky, some color balance / selective color (push some red tones into the shadows to make the blue more interesting). Three shots, the intersection, girl, and Mast Brothers, is mostly untouched.

Ahh I'm so happy with velvia.

PS. don't judge from the blog photos, compressing them down to 800px takes a big toll on IQ. Don't judge on fb either, since their compression algorithm destroys IQ. I need to find somewhere else to post higher quality photos.

One caveat: velvia is not good at all for food photos, its way too saturated. Also gotta start manual focusing for food since AF is quite poor in dimly lit restaurants. Noise from high ISO is also annoying...

29 November 2015


Is it too much to ask for the Gardiner to be turned into the High Line?

 The water didn't turn out as nicely as before :(

 Favourite shot of the day

 The shadows looks like a wash of ultramarine blue...or was it phthalo blue? Been too long since I touched my watercolors.

 Cheesy but I do like lens flares (or sun bursts). This photo is very creamy imo.

 More blue shadows, this time complimenting the fall foilage.

 Interesting composition...uninteresting colors/light, sigh.

I didn't think this photo would turn out usable since it's strongly backlit, pleasant surprise.

Ending my walk at Hudson Yards as the golden hour approaches its end. Lighting really is everything, there's no patch tool equivalent for fixing crappy lighting.

28 November 2015


It has been a blissful day of tea drinking.
I am beginning to appreciate the tea's body and 回感 (aftertaste) much more, my brews usually lack in these aspects. Learned quite a lot today.

Some photos of my little walk around Chinatown:

Photo rants:
  • Taking photos of buildings make me wish I had a tilt-shift lense, the perspective distortion really annoys me. 
  • The hardest part of post-processing is deciding how to crop each photo. Thankfully the patch tool does a good job of removing clutter that can't be cropped out. 
  • How to not overexpose sky?!

27 November 2015


Travel indeed makes you humble, this is enough justification to keep going places.
^had this thought while looking at carved wooden panels at Cooper Hewitt, if some craftsman ages ago can carve thousands of flowers, then I can get through any amount of tedious drafting (not that I've done much of that).

Most photos are up on facebook, reposting a couple that I really like here:

I gravitate to interesting light more than anything. Here features the fringes of light coming in from the window shutters that gets reflected in the display case. Also it is entirely true that what gets left out of photographs

Aside: The museum featured this spinning chair by Heatherwick Studio as part of their exhibit and my goodness that chair is so fun to spin in. I have more to say about this exhibit, maybe for another day.


Similar feelings of gratefulness were in my head as I walked down Central Park. The day was too beautiful to feel anything but.

All in all a great start to New York visit #3.

Well the great start was really visiting Fang's the first thing from the airport. I was lucky to be in the shop at the same time as a couple of regulars, which guarantees good conversation. The tea was great too, as usual, especially this high mountain black tea that was made from a varietal that's usually made into oolong. I wanted to bring some of that home, but it was only sold in 100g packages. Luckily Eco-cha seem to stock a similar tea, might try their offering instead.
I don't think I'll stray from my Flushing combo of Fang's + Xi'An Famous Foods, though there is a temple a little far off that apparently offers great dosa. Next time (when I'm not lugging my backpack)

Short backpack interlude: packed fine, not much changes from my first impression. I just don't have enough strength to carry it for long walks.

Checked into my airbnb after Flushings and was amazed at it's cuteness. Although 3B still wins because of their amazing breakfast + nice smelling toiletries. I have zero possible complaints about this place, it's so adorable. 
The photo I took from the balcony may end up being my favourite photo of this trip, because I was lucky to catch good lighting.
It still required exposure bracketing to catch most of the dynamic range. I do have complaints about Photoshop's HDR algorithm because it did not generate good results. Had to manually merge to HDR and that was a major pain because somehow the three shots came out misaligned and stretched (?!). That took easily an hour or so of fine tuning.

26 November 2015


We can pretend this is the sunrise instead and that I'm enough of a morning person to pause and take photos when I'm probably running late to the airport (the latter is true except the morning person part).

See you later ATL.


Here is actually a photo from that morning:

I took it because of the full moon, but it had such low contrast with the sky in photo that I gave up trying to bring it out. Instead enjoy the tree's silhouette.

25 November 2015

Soul Eater

The trend seems to be picking up previously dropped manga once they're complete. Need to do the same for Noblesse and Kubera.

image via.

This series needs no introduction, and I did enjoy it very much. I'm glad that I can file this into series that have satisfying endings.

Thinking about Soul Eater, I can't say that it's objectively well written, but it is entertaining and the plot/character flaws don't detract from the fun of the manga. My selfish most desired request is to see Maka's mom make an appearance...and get back together with Spirit, but I'll take Marie and Stein (Stein is definitely my 2D type, he was good with Medusa too but that ship won't even be built) as a consolation. Other plot loose strings that I'm wondering about is who is the second gorgon sister, what's Medusa's motivation, if she ever loved Crona, and why Justin deflected.
And definitely more lore. There's a lot of appearances by characters of Shinigami's generation (great old ones) that are not explained at all. Eibon and Shinigami's connection is never explored. How Medusa betrayed Archane is never explained. We get one sentence about Asura's creation. Noah just seems extra... I would very much like an entire volume of just backstory like Magi.

Surprisingly, it doesn't bother me at all that the character developments are minor and the characters themselves are rather one-dimensional. Usually this irks me me more than plot shortcomings. I actually like the fact that each character is basically representative of a single quality (eg. Maka is courage). The dynamics between every character, I do mean every single character including support and villans, is fantastic and the strongest aspect of the manga.

20 November 2015

makes me smile

yeah aujourd'hui c'est pas mal.
Started off the day with legit greek yogurt (take me back to gritaly...). Setting a good start to the day is enough of a reason to eat a good breakfast. 

19 November 2015


I am getting better at appreciate the little beautiful moments. Next up is working on being more patient.

side note: maybe my macbook is just old, but it doesn't render color as nicely as my iphone.

18 November 2015


Took a brief break from the difficulty reading for some manga: Watashi no Messiah-sama.
I also strongly recall a couple key plot points, but have zero recollection of the rest of the manga. Not sure if it's because the story is very cookie cutter that I'm just mistakening it for other series (I suspect X1999, sad that it never concluded), but I distinctively remember the cell phone scene at the hospital which is pretty specific. 

tl;dr: mehhhh, but with a bias.
  • Really cliche premise of useless boy who's chosen as the world's savior because of his overwhelming kindness. Harem-ish (-ish modifier because it's pretty clear cut that Haruna is the girl). Eventually powers up to godly mode, saves said world. Basara is a good example of cliche premise with amazing development.
  • Plot twists are really forced, and the foreshadows are fairly obvious. Point (and spoiler!): Ryohei is the Emperor...but nope not really, ha. I don't recall much of Angel Sanctuary, but that is a good example of good plot twists (until / unless you've read her other works then you realize they all follow a similar formula and can predict the story). 
  • Side characters are barely developed. Hime at least got a chapter of backstory, Mui gets like six lines? Absolutely nothing is said of Tarutaru and these three girls are part of the main party. Again Basara does wonderfully develop the side characters.
  • Enemy characters that switch sides with the bare minimum of effort. Point: that thread using guy, Shinya wasn't even kind to him when they first fought, and he ends up helping save Shinya's life with the weak excuse of "oh Sariel I'm still loyal to you, but you can't kill him because I gotta kill him first".
  • Well I don't dislike Haruna, Lilu's story is much more compelling. 
Perhaps I would've liked this manga more had I not discovered it through the comment section of Record of the Fallen Vampire, with some idiot mentioning this series is comparable. Heck no this is not. Record of the Fallen Vampire's plot involves legitimate shitty fate for the main characters, and if you are not heartbroken after reading it, then the only plausible explanation is that you have no heart. (ha this saying reminds me so much of high school days)

I also don't post enough about the mangas I've read. My anime tag numbers at 68 and manga at 46, but I've definitely read double the amount of series as I've watched.

17 November 2015


Somehow I ended up borrowing A Fine Balance and two dense philosophy books (Human, All Too Human and The Life of the Mind) at the same time. Needless to say I won't be finishing all three before their due date. I did read one or two chapters of each, and decided to attempt to read through The Life of the Mind simply because it's the last of the three that I began reading.

But here's a quotation from the very beginning of A Fine Balance.
What was the point of repeating the story over and over and over, she asked herself - it always ended the same way; whichever corridor she took, she wound up in the same room.
Mark my words, I will read this eventually! (full disclosure: I have been telling myself this since grade 12 English when it was on the IRP list for the enriched class)

Onto The Life of the Mind.
In short, I haven't put this much effort into comprehending a text since...grade 12 English haha, specifically that "Prufrock" poem. I remember so clearly sitting in the Starbucks at a now-closed location of Indigo reading and re-reading that poem for 3 hours because a bunch of us finished visiting the university fair early and was waiting for others to eat dinner together.
I digress.

I discovered this book from the weekly Brain Pickings newsletter. It goes to show her skill of writing and thought because I understood that article without much trouble. This is not the case when I actually read the book, I am barely following along. Mostly because I have zero philosophical background and thus don't understand the intended meaning of most words. For example, "real" vs "reality", are the same concept to me yet I'm sure there is a distinction. Below are some passages that made sense to me, they are from the first section "Appearance" of the first volume "Thinking" (aka I got through 80 pages in like 4 hours):

Whatever the motives may be, success and failures in the enterprise of self-presentation depend on the consistency and duration of the image thereby presented to the world.
aye aye.

Self-presentation is distinguished from self-display by the active and conscious choice of the image shown; self-display has no choice but to show whatever properties a living being possesses. [...] Only self-presentation is open to hypocrisy and pretense, properly speaking, and the only way to tell pretense and make-believe from reality and truth is the former's failure to endure and remain consistent. [...] It has been said that hypocrisy is the compliment vice pays to virtue, but that is not quite true. All virtue begins with a compliment paid to it, by which I express my being pleased with it. The compliment implies a promise to the world, to those whom I appear, to act in accordance with my pleasure, and it is the breaking of the implied promise that characterized hypocrisy.

-and men and animals both possess an innate ability to manipulate appearance for the sake of deception. [...] But what then appears under a deceptive surface is not an inside self, an authentic appearance, changeless and reliable in its thereness. [...] An "inside self", if it exist at all, never appears to either the inner or the outward sense, since none of the inner data possess stable, relatively permanent features which, by being recognizable and identifiable, characterizes individual appearance. "No fixed and abiding self can present itself in this flux of inner appearances," as Kant observed repeatedly. [...]
Emotions and "inner sensations" are "unworldly" in that they lack the chief worldly property of "standing still and remaining" at least long enough to be clearly perceived - and not merely sensed [...] It is precisely the absence of form and hence of any possibility of intuition that characterizes out experiences of inner sensations. In inner experience, the only thing to hold onto, to distinguish something at least resembling reality from the incessantly passing moods of it psyche, is persistent repetition.
Intuition, another word that I struggled with the meaning of. I can't even easily look up the meaning of such words since the dictionary usually provides the non-technical meaning...or in the case of verity (used in the book in the context of truth turned into verities), the dictionary defined it as "a true principle or belief, especially one of fundamental importance." gee thanks.
"what I as mind think is not remembered by me as man, and, conversely, my actual state as man does not enter my notion of myself as mind." [... Kant] compares the state of the thinking ego to the state of sound sleep "when the external senses are completely at rest." The ideas in sleep, he suspects, "may be clearer and. Trader than the very clearest in the waking state," precisely because "man, at such times, is not sensible of his body." And of these ideas, on waking up, we remember nothing.
It is characteristic of the Oxford school of philosophy to understand these fallacies as logical non-sequiturs - as though philosophers throughout the centuries had been, for reasons unknown, just a bit too stupid to discover the elementary flaws in their arguments. The truth of the matter is that elementary logical mistakes are quite rare in the history of philosophy; what appears to be errors in logic to minds disencumbered of questions that have been uncritically dismissed as "meaningless" are usually caused by semblances, unavoidable for beings whose whole existence is determined by appearance. Hence in our context the only relevant question is whether the semblances are inauthentic or authentic ones, whether they are caused by dogmatic beliefs and arbitrary assumptions, mere mirages that disappear upon closer inspection, or whether they are inherent in the paradoxical condition of a living being that, through itself part of the world of appearances, is in possession of a faculty, the ability to think, that permits the mind to withdraw from the world without ever being able to leave it or transcend it. 

In a world of appearances, filled with error and semblances, reality is guaranteed by this three-fold commonness: the five senses, utterly different from each other, have the same object in common; members of the same species have the context in common that endows every single object with its particular meaning; and all other sense-endowed beings, though perceiving this object from utterly different perspectives, agree on its identity. Out of this threefold commonness arises the sensation of reality.
The sixth sense's corresponding worldly property is realness, and the difficulty with this property is that it cannot be perceived like other sensory properties. The sense of realness is not a sensation strictly speaking, [...] for the "sensation" of reality, of sheer thereness, relate to the context in which we ourselves as appearance exist among other appearing creatures. [...] whereas realness is akin to sensation; a feeling of realness (or irreality) actually accompanies all the sensations of my senses, which without it would not make "sense".
haha I like the word play (or at least to me is word play) in the last paragraph. It wouldn't look out of place in Alice in Wonderland.

The faculty of thinking, however, which Kant, as we have seen, called Vernunft (reason) to distinguish it from Verstand (intellect), the faculty of cognition, is if an altogether different nature. [...] the intellect (Verstand) desires to grasp what is given to the senses, but reason (Vernunft) wishes to understand its meaning. Cognition, whose highest criteria is truth, derives that criterion from the world of appearances in which we take our bearings through sense perceptions, whose testimony is self-evident, that is, unshakable by argument and replaceable only by another evidence. [...] truth is located in the evidence of the senses. But that is by no means the case for meaning and with the faculty of thought, which searched for it; the latter does not ask what something is or whether it is exists at all - its existence is always taken for granted - but what it means for it to be.

Even the relentlessness of modern science's Progress, which constantly corrects itself by discarding the answers and reform imaging the questions, does not contradict science's basic goal - to see and to know the world as is given to the senses - and yet concept of truth is derived from the common-sense experience of irrefutable evidence, which dispels error and illusion. But the questions raised by thinking and which it is in reason's very nature to raise - questions of meaning - are all unanswerable by common sense and the refinement of it we call science. The quest for meaning is "meaningless" to common sense and common-sense reasoning because it is the sixth sense's function to fit us into the world of appearances and make us at home in the world given by out five senses; there we are and no questions asked.
I was unnecessarily happy when a concept I was actually familiar with (progress) came up. Thank you Vanderburg.

What science and the quest for knowledge are after is irrefutable truth, that us, propositions human beings are not free to reject - they are compelling. They are of two kinds [...]: truths of reasoning and truths of fact. The main distinction between the lies in the degree of their force of compulsion: the truths of "Reasoning are necessary and their opposite is impossible" while "those of Fact are contingent and their opposite is possible." [...] Truths of fact, their contingency notwithstanding, are as compelling for anybody witnessing them with his own eyes as the proposition that two and two make four is for anybody in his right mind. The point is only that a fact, an event, can never be witnessed by everyone who may want to know about it, whereas rational or mathematical truths presents itself as self-evident to everyone endowed with the same brain power; it's compelling nature is universal, while the compelling force it factual truth is limited; it does not reach those who, not having been witness, have to rely on the testimony of others, whom one may or may not believe. The true opposite of factual, as distinguished from rational, truth is not error or illusion but the deliberate lie.

16 November 2015


A really big pot of vegetable soup, because eating bbq & fried chicken for a couple of days make me really miss vegetables.

Updates from previous iteration:
  • Added tomato paste when sweating the onions, don't taste much of a difference
  • Added Doenjang, also don't taste much of a difference
  • Added Parmesan rind, now this does make it taste better. Will implement for future iterations. 
  • Didn't forget beans this time.

Also a selfie because I like this particular reflection.

and another sunset, which is now happening at a much more convenient time during my commute home thanks to daylight savings time:

15 November 2015

tortuga air: run 00

Impression of Memphis:
  1. People are afraid to park on the middle levels of parking garages
  2. The number of tall buildings can be counted with a single hand
  3. The airport has water features that belong at a luxury hotel. 
Highlight of the trip is definitely the fried chicken. It was so crisp on the outside yet still juicy on the inside. I do mean crisp, not like how KFC's crunchy coating (which is also good), but crisspppp *u* 
Lessons learned for packing:
  1. Packing cubes are really wonderful 
  2. It is awesome having back-ups / travel sized containers of skincare / make-up items permanently packed. Saves time scrambling the morning of. 
  3. It was a good idea to bring multiple smaller bags within my Tortuga Air since most of my days were spent doing field work (need to carry a bunch of equipment) interlaced with eating out (brought a smaller clutch). For longer trips, would carry daypack separately. 
It was a really short trip, so it was hard to go wrong with the packing.

Speaking of my Tortuga Air, the verdict is that I do like it and is a good purchase. Let me go over the whole purchase story.

Quite some time ago (yeaaars) I came across the Goruck GR1 and that was the pack that set off my interest in packing light / one bag (of course there's a subreddit for this). While I'm not at the level of ultra-light yet, I was determined to go one carry on sized bag for all my trips (okay except for when I'm coming back from China).

The GR1 is quite pricey, and not designed for travel in mind. But it is tough as hell and sleek looking. I did discover Tortuga back when they just started out, but the first model was quite ugly to be honest. After browsing /r/onebag and some other travel blogs sporadically over the period of said years, my shortlisted bags were the following:
  • Goruck GR1
  • Tortuga Air
  • Osprey...either the Farpoint 40 or Porter 46
I chose the Tortuga in the end because it was designed especially for travel, and a smaller size. The smaller size is actually the biggest factor since I want to eventually explore Europe and fly on those notorious budget airlines. The Air fits under the seat, which saves me the trouble of battling for overhead storage. In fact on the flight back from Memphis, those without carry-on items (translation: do not need to use the overhead bins) had priority boarding. I'm also a wimp so carrying a 40L pack while walking around sounds absolutely miserable (like that time I had to lug my small, almost carry-on size, suitcase up and down the stairs of the tube stations in London...).
Other things that I like:
  • the organization
  • top pocket for easy access, and easy to take out laptop
  • opens flat like a suitcase
  • understated look
  • water bottle side pocket, honestly why is this not on every pack?
  • expandable!
I was hesitant about buying a backpack online since I couldn't try it on. But they offered free returns, so might as well. When it arrived, I tried it on while it was loaded it up with a couple hardcover books and a bunch of dried pantry items...and it was not comfortable. Okay so that wasn't a practical amount of weight to carry, so I unloaded a couple of items and tried again. Better this time, but I was still hesitant. But alas the hassle of having to return something got the better of me and I decided to keep it. Luckily I had a bunch of short trips coming up so I could gradually ease into the pack.

When I loaded it up for Memphis and carried it around, for most of the time it was very comfortable. Then again I was carrying field equipment so I don't expect the bag to be heavier on personal trips. New York will be the real test.

Side story: I discovered Tom Bihn Synapse just a couple of weeks after ordering the Tortuga. Had I known about this back then, it's a toss up between which one would've been my final choice. I like how there's a full line of accessories.

14 November 2015


By the miracle of seasonal shifts in the sun path, my north facing window actually gets some direct light! I am very grateful.

Last of Qi Lan.

13 November 2015

to let go

I really had the intention of lining up a week worth of songs from A Rush of Blood to the Head, but then I got too deep into the rabbit hole of optimizing JR rail passes Monday night.

Oh, big news. I am finally gonna stop making excuses and haul myself to Kyoto. 99% go.

I also had the intention to write a post today summarizing lessons learned from my first business trip (Memphis). The significance is more so on packing light, but it really wasn't a challenge for a 2 day trip. Will write about this over the weekend.

For now, this song is helping immensely with not feeling miserable after much sleep deprivation. Actually I didn't lose that much sleep over the trip, really tired regardless.

I like the song more before I watched the MV, she could have chosen a much better outfit.


It's times like this that I really appreciate having a corner of the internet to complain about random stuff.

07 November 2015

oh lie to me

Listening to some new-ish Coldplay to celebrate finding out about their new album. I'm not a big fan of the new song, but it'll probably grow on me.

Though I've actually mostly been listening to the much older A Rush of Blood to My Head, but saving those to fill up next week.

06 November 2015

flange thickness

It's nice to be out in the field for a couple of days.

Excited to be traveling for work next week too. I really wish they'd send me to enough places to rack up some good mileage, but that would requires a couple more years of experience.

05 November 2015


I received my new tea cup today.

The day MUJI first opened it's Toronto store, I got a little celadon-esque cup there and loved it. I still love that cup, but I love this cup. I fear that all my affection has gone to this new cup. In fact I just sent pretty much a love letter gushing with praise to the potter, with hopes that he will make a shiboridashi with this glaze. Then my heart will really stop.

Let's start off with my favourite photo:

Used my lowest aperture (f2.2) and is very happy with the depth of field and softness. I did cheat a little and blurred the background in PS (this tutorial helped tremendously, how did I not know about the quick select brush?). Otherwise the only editing I did was a little sharpening to bring out the crackles, but the color and exposure was spot-on from camera (jpeg! not even raw!). It was the standard that I tried to match every subsequent photo to...without much success.

What I love so much about this cup is that there's so much visual interest in the glaze itself. There's pinholes AND crackles, and there's shiny sections and matte sections.

The clay itself is plenty interesting to look at, and is a lovely contrast from the shino glaze. 

Some assam for the first sip. Can't wait to drink some pu-er from this over the weekend. The rim is quite thick, and so very comfortable to drink from.

It's taking a lot of self control (and credit limit) to stop myself from buying the yuzamashi with the same glaze.

02 November 2015

vibrance and saturation

Part two of what I spent my Sunday afternoon editing, featuring my first foray into LAB color (which I learned about the Sunday before) and the previously mentioned cheesy gochujang pasta.

So I was shooting both raw + jpeg, editing off raw, and noticed a big difference in the color rendition between the unprocessed raw file and the jpg with velvia emulation. This led to some quick googling on how to emulate the emulation, which resulted in this:

The process is pretty much switch to LAB colors, which is a color mode that separates the luminance (how light or dark) from the color (in 2 channels, a and b). It's really easy to make major color adjustments from with levels or curves on the a and b channel. In this case, I just pushed the levels of both a and b towards the center to increase the saturation. The only other adjustment I made was a selective color to town down the cyan in the highlights.

Compared to a totally separate (as in not trying to achieve the same effect) jpeg edit:

The jpeg edit has more realistic colors, but I like how the green and blue tones are brought out in the raw edit. The raw edit also has more details in the shadows which I pulled from ACR.

Comparing camera jpeg, jpeg edit, and raw edit:

Unfortunately I forgot to include a comparison of the unprocessed raw.

Even though I like the end result of the raw edit better, it took at least twice as long as editing straight from jpeg since the flexibility compels me to tweak every little thing. For photos that I get good exposure, I'll stick with just editing from jpeg. As below:

01 November 2015


Good day spent drinking tea and practicing taking photos of said tea.

This image is my goal.
The color rendition, lighting, focus, everything is so perfect. I wonder if this was a one or two people job, I suppose it could be done by one person with a tripod and remote shutter.

Now I'm a little embarrassed to post my own photos haha.
Regardless, today's drink is Joseph Wesley's Keemun Congfu. I was a little confused since the tea is from FuJian whereas Keemun referes to QiMen in AnHui according to wiki. The tea didn't make much of an impression, aside from it's longevity. I got 12+ brews from around 5g in my yixing (~100ml?). The first two brews had a distinct sour and...iuno leathery (but not the smell) taste.

Manual focus practice, would be nice if my camera had focus peaking since it's difficult to tell on the back screen whether something is actually sharp. This was shot in raw to pull out details out of the shadows since it was a pain to expose properly with the dark leaves and bright aluminum.

My poor attempt at a pouring shot, one decent image out of 5 out of focus ones. Again manual focus first and then trying my best to hold the camera steady with one hand while pouring with the other hand. Wishing for a tripod...
Did some extra post-processing on the area of the lid where water is splashed on to increase the contrast. My trick is to set a b/w gradient map on hard light.

I recently switched my film emulation to velvia and am really liking it's color rendition. Works especially well for the tea liquor. Also started to use curves when editing from jpegs to help tone down the over and under exposed areas.

PS. teachat is dangerous for the wallet, ended up buying a teacup. It is gorgeous *u*