31 January 2016


^what comes to mind first is still the many hours I spent leveling there in Ragnarok.

So there was a new ATR on FFXV today. They are not kidding with the game's tagline of "fantasy based in reality", all those physics considerations woahhh. I like the direction they took magic in, especially the interaction with the weather. The whole technology vs. magic reminds me of FFX's set-up, perhaps there will be a similar twist?

In other news, there was a SE sale in the playstation store so now I owe most of the early FF titles except...III, IV, VII. Though I'll play the VII remake, and consider Bravely to be a replacement for IV.

30 January 2016


I doubt that I'm the only one who spends considerable amounts of time thinking what a complete shoe closet would consist of. The end game if you would call it.

There exists many previous iterations scattered across whatever journal I happen to have used at the time, and having come across one version recently made me chuckle at how my preferences have changed. The past list involved a lot more heels than I care to wear now.
So in efforts of making this comparison easier in the future, here's what my ideal...yet practical collection circa January 2016.
  • White sneakers with a thin sole that looks good dirty. Also functioning as the sole pair of travel shoes in warm weather if need to be. I hope that I'll like the stan smiths enough to not have to go through the trouble of ever needing a replacement. The agony was also comparable to that of finding a place to rent. 
  • Minimal sandal with low heel that's comfortable for walking long distance. My HGs...which I think are discontinued, or at least replaced by Trixies? Not a major problem since they look identical. 
  • Black loafers, plain almond shaped toe and not a straight or high throat line. It's sad that the most perfect pair I've found yet is a really cheap pair from my last trip back to China. Accordingly, its sole disintegrated in a year. I would love to buy a BIFL version of this shoe category, but more traditional men's loafers are cut too high and obviously not an almond toe. If I come across them again in China...will buy 5 pairs as back ups because black loafer is my desert island style. But I do like the kitty flats ;_;
  • Not black loafers for fancy occasions when there are too much standing/walking required for heels. My current pair actually functions as both, but the stitching is becoming undone and requires repairs of which I'm too lazy to atm. Charlotte Olympia's virgo flats would be perfect for this slot, but I was too late this sale cycle to get them...and it does not look like it's a permanent item "orz
  • Pointed toe ankle boots, really I'm referring to the Acne Jensen. The metal toe accent and triangular gusset opening is swoon. Though my current pair is perfectly fine, well except for the worn down heel which also needs repairs, so I am hoping to not have to replace them any time soon. 
  • Pointed toe heels, simple and relatively comfortable are my only criteria. Thinking of Manolo BBs, but this is very far off into the future.
  • Snow boots: bean boots got my covered (y)
  • Over the knee leather boots: quite a bit of choice here between the 5050, La Canadienne, etc etc. Can do without, but would make winters more bearable. 
  • "Beater" boots, rather the more accurate description would be boots that can take a beating. Activities so far include hiking and non-active construction site visits. Fulfilled by my Cords pair.
  • Country boots, fulfilled by my C&J pair, though if you want to be a stickler to tradition, country boots aren't suppose to be black. 
  • Dress boots, of which I'm eyeing this. Funny how it's a brown pair, see above. I blame C&J for having such beautiful scotch grains.
  • Jodhpurs, specifically this pair which has successfully stolen my heart. Although this is a pretty heavy overlap with pointed toe ankle boots, but alas boots are my weakness. 
  • Double, double monks. Two because they will be my primary work shoes, along with the black loafers. Have a tan pair already, which is great because I will need a lot of time to save up for two of St. Chrispin's 630. Not a surprise that the brand of Jodhpurs linked above is owned by the same people.
The influence of /r/gyw is real.

Post-game bonus: a gorgeous pair of heels for evening formal events, more likely to be in a displace case in my room rather than being worn.


I'm working on shining my monks this weekend. It requires a ton of patience which I'm having a hard time summoning, though my backlog of podcasts are helping just a tad. Doubting I will get it finished in these two days, but will report back since the seasons have changed such that I have direct sunlight for a couple of minutes everyday now.

29 January 2016

Sputnik Sweetheart

Stayed up late last night to finish this, no regrets.

I do enjoy Murakami's novels more so than his short stories. Though the sample size of short story collection is two, so not very statistically significant. But this also applies to Vonnegut.

Anyways, this counts one of my favourite Murakami's. Because the ending was very...unexpected, and also because each of the three characters all say some heart wrenching things.

Let's start with Miu:
It didn't look like she was trying to find the right words, rather that she was immersed in some personal memory, one without beginning and without end.

and no matter how close you are to someone it's not that easy to be with someone else day after day
^thank you for speaking my mind.
And it came to me then. That we were wonderful traveling companions but in the end no more than lonely lumps of metal in their own separate orbits. From far off they look like beautiful shooting stars, but in reality they're nothing more than prisons, where each of us is locked up alone, going nowhere. When the orbits of these two satellites of ours happened to cross paths, we could be together. Maybe even open our hearts to each other. But that was only for the briefest moment. In the next instant we'd be in absolute solitude. Until we burned up and became nothing.

and then the narrator K:
And I couldn't just shelve those feelings, for there was nothing to take their place.

So that's how we live our lives. No matter how deep and fatal the loss, no matter how important the things that's stolen from us - that's snatched right out of our hands - even if we are left completely changed, with only the outer layer of skin from before, we continue to play out our lives this way, in silence. We draw ever nearer to the end of our allotted span of time, bidding it farewell as it trails off behind. Repeating, often adroitly, the endless deeds of the everyday. Leaving behind a feeling of immeasurable emptiness.

Maybe, in some distant place, everything is already, quietly, lost. Or at least there exists a silent place where everything can disappear, melting together in a single overlapping figure. And as we live out loves we discover - drawing towards us the thin threads attached to each - what had been lost. I closed my eyes and tried to bring to mind as many beautiful lost things as I could. Drawing them closer, holding onto them. Knowing all the while that their lives are fleeting.
^reminds me of Evangelion and the these two lines "我只要沿着记忆的路线 / 到最深处纵然那只是瞬间" from the ED of 仙剑三.
I dream. Sometimes I think that's the only only right thing to do. To dream, to live in the world of dreams - just as Sumire said. But it doesn't last forever. Wakefulness always comes to take me back.

Finally, Sumire:
The me sitting here and the image of me I have are out of sync  
^this sounded so familiar to me when I first came across it. I thought it was because I read a prototype short story. But I was wrong, it is because I had a One Piece wallpaper featuring Sanji with that quotation. Correction, I have another Sanji wallpaper, by the same artist, with another Murakami quotation "only the dead stay seventeen forever" (Norwegian Wood).
Understanding is but the sum of our misunderstandings.
In the world we live, what we know and what we don't know are like Siamese twins, inseparable, existing in a state of confusion.
Confusion, confusion.
Who can really distinguish between the sea and what's reflected in it? Or tell the difference between the falling rain and loneliness?
^my first impression of this is Bebop's theme of "life is a dream", and damn was I spot on:
So what are people suppose to do if they want to avoid a collision [what happens when what we know and what we don't know are not separated. Thinking is a strategy to make the two live together in peace] but still [not think]? Sound hard? Not at all. Logically, it's easy. C'est simple. The answer is dreams. Dreaming on and on. Entering the world of dreams, and never coming out. Living in dreams for the rest of time.
and finally:
That's gotta be one of the principles behind reality. Accepting things that are hard to comprehend, and leaving them that way. 

28 January 2016

perchance to dream

This is a rare out of character, personal post. From last night:

When I have trouble falling asleep, like today, I often think as if I'm jotting my thoughts down as a blog post. And because it's during an effort to fall asleep, I can usually resist the temptation to grab my phone lying beside me and type it out. Also because thoughts come to me faster than I can type it out.
But not tonight. Tonight these incoherent thoughts make it outside of just my head. So warning, ramblings ahead.

From my newsfeed, I understand that today was Bell's lets talk day about mental health. I've also read posts from some friends about mental health, sharing their stories. I don't really have one to share, or maybe I'm extra good at fooling myself that I'm okay. Though I am good at convincing myself, as I've tried unsuccessfully to explain that to people. My closest attempt came up in a convo with Rui about how I seem so logical in my decisions, because I can't trust how I feel because it could either be how I really feel (instinct or gut feeling)...or what I've convinced myself how I ought to feel.

Anyways, I was getting to the point that, even when I feel absolutely shitty, I'm still too chicken to even wish in my head that I would die. This reminds me of one quotation, which I don't think I've posted, so here it is:
The reason you will not say it is when you say it, even to yourself, you will know it's true.
But you know it's true now.
Dying is scary, as Hamlet so eloquently puts it. These are my favourite lines:
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action.
Instead I wish I can unexist, because I know exactly the outcome of that. It's much more convenient than dying, no one feels sad either since I wouldn't have existed in the first place. This is important to me since if somehow the thought the suicide even creeps up, I immediately think of how sad my parents would be and effectively vanquishes any desire to die. I might have told Alex a bit of this, casually brought up in a conversation, and it freaked him out a little? But might've not since I don't recall, though memory is not to be trusted anyways. Two quotations come to mind, but those have been posted before and I trust my future self to get the reference.

To elaborate on the parents bit, I do very much feel an obligation to them. One because literally I owe them my life, so better keep on living that. Though it's arguable that I had no input on whether I'd like to exist in the first place, but let's stay away from that since it gets fuzzy fast. Second is filial obligation to take care of them when they become incapable of doing so (implying that I have become capable in the meantime), both financially and emotionally, because they did that for me when I was a helpless kid. I currently think that this sense of obligation should exist.

Oh back to the previous topic, maybe I won't recognize if I do / did / will feel depressed because I don't think my circumstances justify feeling that way. Things are quite s'well. Even the worst of it in 2B...well I don't know. Maybe that's a lie and I just don't want to know *shurg* But on the other hand, like how I'd defend #firstworldproblems, everyone has their personal hell and it would really be the worst to not (recognize? Acknowledge? Ugh I can't think of the right word. Trivialize!) someone else's problems. Well it's equally bad to do that to yourself. I guess I need a clear and abrupt sign that something is wrong before I can recognize it.

And that abruptly ends this mess of thoughts. It did arise a mild desire to pick up The Life of the Mind again. But velleity. Though more practically because I still have a stack of Murakami to go through (tonight's chapters of Sputnik Sweetheart was amazing, so much truth in Miu and Sumire's words), and I've just borrowed three more books on cooking.

Annnnd, with that we are safely out of the realm of late night thoughts.

27 January 2016


Today is really one of those days, not quite like a flat line since that would imply monotonous, but rather a line with random squiggles that cancel out. An adequate description as this.

throwback to first posting this almost 4 years ago, but hey this time I found the MV!

The transition to this mood was triggered by this song coming up on shuffle while working. Somehow listening to the first couple lines of lyrics just hit so hard.

Then it just seems that the rest of songs to come up from shuffle conspires to maintain this hazy mood. Well it won't be too bad of an evening with delicious roasted vegetables and a new stack of books on cooking.


Okay feeling more  alive after eating. Let's take this opportunity to remind myself of the good things that happened today: treats in the lunch room and on-point eyelining. And if I may elaborate on the eyelining part, a) I can't believe I spent so many years not believing in eyeliners and b) despite the subsequent many years of eyelining, I still have so much trouble getting the shape right. Curses different eye lids. Though I think I'm getting the hang of getting a cat line right for my lids, it's a 3-part geometry.

26 January 2016

The Strange Library

I guess I glossed over the description where it said this was illustrated, a cool short story.

Onto Sputnik Sweetheart

25 January 2016


I've been so spoiled by Fuji colors that iphone photos in my apartment's terrible lighting is so cringe inducing. Hence the lack of my cooking on this blog. But here's some more belated food photos anyways:
 The most umami smelling pot of soup ever

But weirdly it doesn't taste as rich as it smells. Rather, the smell is the odd one out since there's barely any ingredient that's especially rich in glutamate. Also finally used up that 1lb bag of pinto beans that I bought when I first moved down, so glad I can move onto better beans now. Let this experience be proof that for food products, you usually get what you pay for, cheap beans = beans that will never turn creamy.

 Can I say that I cook southern food now?

Tried another corn bread recipe, this time from Kenji so you already know that it turned out amazing. Corn cake is a more accurate description since it's so freakin tender. I'd say this is as good as the ones from South City Kitchen.
On the chili side, it was mostly an improvisation of spices but it turned out well. Great if loaded up with cheese mmmm.

I've only realized while grocery shopping on Sunday that carrots and greens were the only vegetables that I've eaten in the past...month? So out went to the lentil bolognaise recipe that I wanted to try and in came this vinegar roasted vegetables that I saw on Budget Bytes. The utility of that food blog is right up there with Kenji's.

I subbed Chinese black vinegar for balsamic and my gosh I forget how much I love that vinegar. Bonus points for my whole place smelling like that from the roasting. It probably doesn't sound pleasant, but my grandparents or parents would boil vinegar whenever I was sick as a kid to help ward off the cold, so there's that nostalgia component for me as well.
But delicious vinegar :D

24 January 2016

Sue's Part - 1

Turns out that the DHP I drank last weekend was actually from Chen's and not Sue's. This week's is actually Sue's, my apologies. Title has been updated.

perfect winter cup

the lighting changes every 10s, not good for needing to manual focus!

I have mixed feelings about this tea. On one hand, there is intense stone fruit notes in both the smell and taste in the early brews. I've read that this is supposedly an indicator of good quality yancha, but I ain't drinking yancha for the fruit taste! I had troubles coaxing out the mineral taste, which is probably because my water is cooling down too quickly. I am dangerously close to browsing Etsy for teapot cozies, though what I'd really like is a cool hearth (and a whole tea room for that matter)

sidenote: I was wondering all Saturday why I feel so darn cold even though it's barely below freezing outside. Then I realized Atlanta buildings have much less insulation than Toronto ones. Now I've given in and is blasting the heater. Unfortunately my utilities are no longer fixed rate.

a full pot in my gaiwan

Also still not use to drinking from a tiny teapot, every brew feels like a tease rather than a satisfying sip. Thinking of at least 80ml for when I get my own yancha pot.

23 January 2016

The Elephant Vanishes

Finally finished 1/7 remaining Murakami books (except Wild Sheep Chase).

Decided to start with a collection of short stories to ease myself back into a reading mood. My favourite out of this collection is "Sleep", partly because of the easy connection to my own days of futile efforts to fall asleep. In fact I slept so terribly last night sigh.

My second favourite is "Window". It starts off talking about hambagu, which led to me looking up recipes and a subsequent intense wanting to buy tofu since it's a common mix-in for a lighter texture. And tofu was what occupied my mind for the following day, and ugh it takes so much effort to make my way to a store in Atlanta that sells them for a quasi-reasonable price.
Anyways, the point of the above is to have some sort of a parallel structure because what I really want to talk about is the ending of this story. It is the most conclusive ending I've read in a Murakami book so far, and ever beautiful in his ways.
Even now, I have no idea. There are lots of things we never understand, no matter how many years we put on, no matter how much experience we accumulate. All I can do is look up from the train at the window in the buildings that might be hers. Every one of them could be her window, it sometimes seems to me, and at other times I think that none of them could be hers. There are simply too many of them.
Of course it hits close to home too, and it reminds me of this scene in H&C where Mayama is sitting on a bench across from Rika's building looking at her window.
Another quotation from the same story, which is something to aspire to:
I felt so rich with the genuine sense of daily living. 


Other quotations:
Our city, these streets, I don't know why it makes me so depressed. That old familiar gloom that befalls the city dweller, regular as due dates, cloudy as mental Jell-O. The dirty facades, the nameless crowds, the unremitting noise, the packed rush-hour trains, the grey skies, the billboards on every square centimetre of available space, the hopes and resignations, irritation and excitement. And everywhere, infinite options, infinite possibilities. An infinity, and at the same time, zero. We try to scope it all up in our hands, and what we get is a handful of zero. That's the city.
from "A Slow Boat to China"

Memory is like fiction: or else it's fiction that's like memory. [...] Either way, no matter how hard you try to put everything neatly into shape, the context wanders this way and that, until finally the context isn't even there anymore.  
from "The Last Lawn of the Afternoon"

And I hear things. Not sounds, but thick slabs of silence being dragged through the dark. [...] Those are the initial indications. First, the aching. Then, a slight distortion of my vision. Tides of confusion wash through, premonitions tugging at memories, memories tugging at premonitions. A finely honed razor moon flats white in the sky, roots of doubt borrow into the earth.

I mean, why send out a botched attempt at a letter? Better to send nothing at all, right? At least, that's what I think: a message imperfectly communicated does about as much good as a screwed-up timetable. 

An exercise for myself that I've gots to do one day is to categorize by theme or topic, all the quotations that I've collected over the years, scattered across here, notebooks and tumblrs. Also to devise a way to display them.

22 January 2016


It's hard to start a snow-y weekend better than receiving some pu-er.

The 2008 BuLang will be my new daily drinker since I've already consumed half the mug, and the rest is to prepare myself so I can shop better when in Yunnan this summer.

19 January 2016


So Atlanta does get cold enough to have a winter proper, although so far the cold days have not coincided with the wet days, so no snow fall yet. But it was funny seeing a smudge of ice on the sidewalk this morning, and then a 3m radius around that covered with road salt in the afternoon.

Here's the return of MARTA sunsets:

17 January 2016

Chen's - part 1

The first of many weekends that will be spent with some yancha by my side, thanks to John.

All my cups are bigger than the pot.

It's a bit of a challenge with new tea and new pot. In particular the pot, I've never handled a small pot before, and took some getting use to filling and pouring from it. Pouring was a little difficult since this pot has thin walls and the only place to put your finger in order to secure the lid is on the nub, but unfortunately that's also where the air hole is, so putting your finger there will effectively stop the flow.

Anyways, first up is DHP from Sue's. Gots to visit her shop the next time I make it to NYC.
b/w because WB leans too warm, ended up liking the b/w a lot

Had this tea both today and yesterday (oh the joy of one pack lasting two days in a small pot!) and both sessions were really consistent. This is a lighter roasted DHP, so it opens with strong florals. The first couple brews left my mouth really dry. Just off boiling water is needed to get the mineral taste to show up, but super tasty once it's there. It also leaves a strong and lingering scent in the bottom of the cup, though I'm having a hard time putting a name to it.

To pivot to photographing tea, it is really darn hard to get a good photo of the leaves inside the pot because of the strong contrast. Need to learn more about lighting, which is the natural progression after fussing over camera body, then lenses, and finally light.

See below, was a pain maneuvering my reading lamp to light the pu-er:
t'was a great daily drinker

In other news, the first cake of pu-er that I finished! Well almost, I've broken up what remains of the entire cake (nothing is left in the wrapper) into my mug. Can definitely finish that before moving back.
...but I've also made a big order from Crimson Lotus, with the justification that I need to sample some pu-er before going back to China so I can buy larger quantities when I visit Yunnan.

16 January 2016

skincare routine: winter '16

Well my routine certainly expanded since the last time I posted in the summer.

Excluding cleansing stuff (Kose cleansing oil / Hada Labo foaming cleanser / Innisfree clay mask / Skinfood rice pack):

This is how everything is set-up on my little table, with the general order of use corresponding from left to right.

Actives (haven't changed, and probably won't for a while)
  • Mizon 8% AHA: the packaging is the sole reason why I'm not trying any other AHAs
  • Melano CC: can easily stock up while in Japan, so won't be switching back to OST for a while
  • Cosrx 2% BHA: I really do like how it sinks in so quickly
Main Routine (many new additions)
  • Cosrx A-Sol: this is more-so trouble care, but I'll slap this on whenever I feel that my skin is becoming congested. Not used everyday.
  • Cosrx Galactomyces 90: not sure how much of the overall improvement in the glowing of my skin can be attributed back to this, but it seems to have some beneficial effects. Will try other first essences when I run out though. 
  • Hada Labo lotion: so stocking up refills when in Japan
  • Shark Sauce: aka niacinamide bomb (at 5%) I love how it started (proud to be part of the 2nd batch), I love the texture...but I'm inconclusive at how effective it is for me. Been only using it on one side of my face and frankly there's little difference in the pigmentation of my old acne scars. Oh it's also gotten a ton of amazing reviews. Will reserve judgement for when I finish the bottle, hoping it's just because I'm using it only at night that the effects are taking longer to become apparent. 
  • Tosowoong propolis essence: not their famous ampoule since I'm not a big fan of mixing products into each other. This what I use on the other side of my face that doesn't get Shark Sauce. Haven't been using it enough to see if it has any benefits, but I do like the ingredients and texture. Out of Tosowoong's essence and Scinic's ampoule, one of them will cover honey and the other will cover snail, though undecided which is which yet. Used only at night.
  • Scinic Honey AIO Ampoule: not as sticky as I've read in reviews so I'm using it in the morning as the only "boosting" step aside from my Hada Labos to be true to it's AIO name. It's working well, and is very economical, so will try the snail version next. 
  • Cosrx 96% Snail Essence: solid snail essence...since there's not much else in it. I have no complaints about this, but will try out Scinic's snail AIO since I prefer products stacked with good things. Used only at night.
  • Hada Labo Milk: ditto on stocking up.
Trouble Care (entirely new section)
This section is analogous to the section of your wardrobe for exercising...or going out, whichever you do less of. Basically specialists that gets called in periodically.
  • Chica y Chico Astazet 4.0: the star ingredient is supposedly an amazing antioxidant and the product is designed to fade scars. I haven't used it enough to make a sound judgement, but so far it's not very promising.
  • Tosowoong Tea Tree Essence: this replaces Shark Sauce and the propolis essence when I have active acne. Pretty effective combo with the Cosrx A-Sol and LJH essence at calming down large inflammations. 
  • LJH Tea Tree 90 Essence: I thinnnk this is more effective than the Tosowoong essence, but also much more expensive. 
  • Mizon Pink Spot: The abovementioned combo is good at calming down large red spots, but doesn't bring them to head which then takes forever to disappear. Bought this in hopes of having a way to force the acne to come to a head so I can slap a hydrocolloid bandage on there and banish it foreverrrr.
In other news:
  • Innisfree Mist: used to wet the air puff before applying my cushion to create a dewier appearance. 
  • Sunkiller Perfect Strong Moisture Suncreen: finally used up a bottle of my Sunbears, into trying the next Japanese sunscreen. This one, although still a liquid, is slightly thicker and thus easier to apply. A good winter sunscreen.
  • Lovemore masks: back to loving Taiwanese masks, because silk masks are amazing. Hands down best mask sheet material.
I also like to keep travel sized products readily packed so I can just grab and go when packing. It's quite a time saver. 

15 January 2016


After these, I would've read all of Murakami's fiction works with the exception of A Wild Sheep Chase, which the Atlanta library system does not have.

Unfortunately this catches me in a non-reading mood, so it will take some willpower to get through before they are all due back.

14 January 2016

prickly pears

Today features my backlog of food photos:

1. African peanut soup, much tastier than when I first made it.

The main difference, if I recall, is the generous addition of a couple different kinds of chilies, and probably more sweet potatoes. This also benefits greatly from the addition of cashews, in reality I added more after taking the photo.
Definitely a staple, especially since this freezes well.

2. Potato & tuna salad, probably my sole original recipe.

First edition here, but this version is much better mainly thanks to the ultra-crispy roasted potatoes (method via the always awesome Kenji). Though I do miss the basil, thankfully I can go back to Sky Garden this summer *u* Another tweak in this version is adding the tuna to a big batch of the dressing and letting it marinate in the heavily mustard concoction since I buy cheap water-packed tuna.

3. Cornbread

Extra emphasis on the corn, very very intense flavour of corn, all thanks to the fancy cornmeal from Anson Mills. For all the amazing corn taste, the per serving cost of this corn bread is astronomical since a bag of cornmeal cost $6 and makes...one skillet of cornbread. I should've read their recipe more closely sigh. Saving my two remaining bags for when parents visit while I try other recipes that can work with mediocre cornmeal.

4. Bean sprouts

I've very overdue on posting this since one of the photos is resized to 600px durr. But I am damn proud that I figured to use my steamer post to germinate the green beans, it works absolutely fantastic. This reminds me to see if Publix sells green beans so I can make more of them.

11 January 2016


Finally retrieved my tea care package after it spent the weekend in my leasing office. The anticipation was overwhelming.
 yahcha for weeeeeeks! plus an aged oolong.

 Because one pack can now last more than one session! Thank you so much for lending me a little shuipin pot.

This is very close to an 100% crop with minimal edits. You can quite clearly see the less than stellar IQ from shooting at high ISO. 

Much thanks!

10 January 2016


I thought that I would keep my little X10 around in case I needed a more normal lens, but alas I am too spoiled by the newer model that I see all the deficiencies in the old. Especially when manual focusing, so so much easier on the X-T10 with focus peaking and a larger and higher resolution LCD screen.

Also despite all my praise for Velvia, I've been using Chrome for the past month or so since it's more suitable for indoor shooting. It really is beautiful paired with the soft, diffuse light of my window.

This is SOOC, with only cropping:
(by fluke I got the focusing perfect the first time, such a rare ocurrence)

Trying out BTT's dongding. It's a lighter roast compared to my Eco-Cha, and taste accordingly different. It's a brief interlude before diving back into yancha next weekend, courtesy of my lovely friend who sent me some samples to try.

09 January 2016

2016 hit list

I regularly like to engage in a futile effort of listing out future purchases with the goal of sticking to said list. The accuracy of the list has gotten better for clothing purchases, balanced out by omissions and extra purchases. But this year I will be overly ambitious and try to include all categories.

Motivation: a favourite blog's wardrobe lust list

Even though I've titled this post for 2016, I'll be including a "grail" section at the end for things that I've been eyeing forever and will be the end-all of that product. Bonuses will definitely being spent on these.

  •  Adidas Stan Smiths: replacement white sneakers for my Ecco pair that has a hole worn into it's sole. I'd rebuy the same Ecco pair for it's low profile...except it's been long discontinued. Been a difficult task to find a similarly low profiled sneaker.
  • Black jeans: probably rebuying a jcrew pair whenever it becomes on sale, gonna stick with cheap jeans since I wear through them fast enough to be considered disposable.
  • Unicorn thick wool pants: so I can wear my Grace boots as office wear.
  • Black over the knee boots: only if I can find a really good deal, because I can always suck it up in the cold. 
  • Forest green coat: Tien said that his friend that works in retail said this will be a popular color this season. Perhaps I can finally find a suitable coat.
  • Fancy laces & shoe care: to pamper my footwear. Leather laces / flat waxed laces / Saphir neutral wax / Saphir creme polish in tan 
  • Back-up glasses and sunglasses: to take advantage of Warby Parker before I leave, via HSA money
  • An allowance for minor shopping in Japan and China.

  • Jolse / RRS: order for refills, and some new first essence to try (NR, Innisfree, Tosowoong).
  • Taiwanese sheet masks: a lot of MBD / Lovemore / My Scheming, a bit of L'herbaflore and Maskingdom if I have time in Taipei. After a year or so of using Korean sheet masks, it's back to Taiwanese ones. 
  • Japanese sunscreens and eyeliner: to pick up when I'm in Japan. Also Hadalabo refills.
  • Cushions: only if Sulwhasoo / Iope / Laneige / Hera comes out with pretty LE cushion cases, but I'm satisfied with my current Innisfree one.

Entertainment / Technology (woah this section is surprisingly populated for how little time I have leftover for it)
  • Fuji XF 35mm f2 WR: either whenever B&H starts discounting this, or in Japan.
  • Other camera accessories: Slik tripod / rocket blower / lenspen / maybe polarizing & ND filter
  • PS Vita via Ryan: whenever I see him next
  • Bravely Default: whenever a price drop occurs, hopefully when Bravely Second releases, or even better if it comes in a bundle with Second.
  • FE:Fates: only if I can get my hands on LE, else I'll wait a long time until sale/price drop.
  • Ni no Kuni 2: I regret not getting LE of the first game, definitely jumping on this.
  • FFXV: sigh. just sigh. I've budgeted for this for yeeeeeears.
  • PS4: preferably bundled with any of the above games

  • Vegetable cleaver: to get in Japan, also sharpening stones. Incidental is learning how to sharpen knives. My kitchen will be fully functionally stocked after this.
  • Jetpens order: gotta take advantage of US shipping!
  • An allowance for when I get tempted in MUJI.

  • Japan: 1x sencha / 1x gyokuro / 1x hojicha / 1x mujicha / maybe a small shiboridashi
  • China: yancha / dian hong / a small yixing for yancha if I trust myself to evaluate pots
  • Taiwan: if Wisteria has a reasonably priced black tea sampler set
  • Online: refill of dongding / if Tea From Vietnam has another black friday sale / maybe some pu-er from Crimson Lotus

  • Burberry trench coat: this coat is the epitome of the grail section. Maybe one day I will be making enough money to buy the seasonal coats too. 
  • Custom-made shirts: because I am picky about the details on my shirt and Everlane discontinued the closest-to-perfect silk blouse I've found. 
  • Bespoke coat: navy / cashmere / silk lining / double breast / six low contrast horn buttons / exaggerated partially fur lapels / ends right above knee. Similar to this and this.
  • St. Crispins 630 model double monk: seriously, no sleeker shoe exists (not a fan of wholecuts)
  • Black croc leather bag: or probably a YSL sac de jour in calf with a croc texture. Thinking that this will be my main work bag, for when I get my P.Eng
  • Kelly bag: for when I make principle  
  • Hermes silk scarves: maybe I should alternate between a pair of nice shoes and a silk scarf every year, starting after full time employment of course
  • Eames lounge chair: after I buy a house *u*

08 January 2016


I'm panicking because I can't remember the lyrics to my childhood favourite songs...but I also don't know the lyrics of my new favourite songs by heart yet.

In the words of Sylvia Plath:
August rain: the best of the summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time.

This song and 东风破 are the first two songs that I learned. Though I'm happy that I managed to remember all but 3 lines of lyrics from this song in the time it took to wash my hair (aka a really long time).

The internet does not agree on who the original singer is, but this version is the set of lyrics that I remember.

用我的晚安陪你吃早餐 记得把想念存进扑满
我望着满天星在闪 听牛郎对织女说要勇敢
别怕我们在地球的两端 看我的问候骑着魔毯
飞 用光速飞到你面前 让你能看到十字星有北极星作伴
我会耐心的等 随时欢迎你靠岸
想念不会偷懒 我的梦统统给你保管

07 January 2016

The Lady and the Monk

I thought to commemorate that I'm actually going to Kyoto by reading a book on it. But it turns out less to be about the city, though still a worthwhile read because I learned some interesting words.
This quotation is very representative of the book:
 As spring went on, Sachiko and I still found ourselves often trading metaphors over the phone, exchanging complex feelings in pieces small enough to throw, and catch, I at a little open booth, on an empty, narrow alleyway, in the dark, she in the small room that sometimes seemed an almost unbearably wistful compound of her dream.
"I want only dream time together with you. You are from other world. I want see and learn this other world. But I cannot join. My heart very tiny - little fragile, like grass on windy day."
"But dream world only not so good," I replied, reflecting her English back to her. "If I was talking to Yuki, I could tell her stories she cause she is a child. But you are not a child. I want to help you if you have problems. Dream time only not so good." [...]
"Then your heart change?"
"Not change. But sometimes tired. I feel I am on a beach, waving, calling out, 'Sachiko,' but you are on a far boat and cannot hear me [...]."
"I little moon feeling, then you cannot reach?"
"Yes. And I cannot give an answer to your problem. I can only give you a quiet time, a relaxed time, the chance to forget your problems so that you will be more strong to conquer them. "[...]
"You say true. But if I much cry, have much tear in eye, then i cannot see star, or beautiful thing. Only cloud."
To that I could say nothing in return.
This made me want to pick up The Life of the Mind again, also happy that I recognized the Macbeth reference:
I had often thought that the mind was, quite literally, a devils advocate, an agent of diabolical sophistry that could argue any point and its opposite with equal conviction; an imp that delighted in self-contradiction and yet, though full of sound and fury, ultimately signified nothing. None of the truest things in life - like love or faith - was arrived at by thinking; indeed, one could almost define the things that mattered as the ones that came as suddenly as thunder. Too often, i thought, the rational faculty tended only to rationalize, and the intellect served only to put one in two minds, torn apart by second thoughts. In that sense, God could be said to be nothing but the act of faith itself. Religion lay in the leap and not the destination. And Zen was as much as anything a refutation of doubt itself; a transcendence of the whole either/or sensibility that makes up all out temporizing.  
This made me look up lacrimae rerum, which in turn created a brief desire in me to learn Latin:
The Japanese were famous, I knew, for their delight in lacrimae rerum and for finding beauty mostly in sadness; indeed, it was often that their word for "love" and their word for "grief" are homonyms - and almost synonyms too - in a culture that seems to love grief, of the wistful kind, and to grieve for love. So I was hardly surprised to learn that most of their stories were sad and that all of them end in parting. Parting was the definition of sweet sorrow here. 
Upon looking up lacrimae rerum, I like the definition of "tears of things, the inherent tragedy of existence", and the line in Aeneis that it was from: "Sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt" meaning "These are the tears of things, and our mortality cuts to the heart." Perhaps it's a case of the grass is always greener on the other side (relevant, this theme frequently appears in the book), but don't ancient languages sound so much nicer? I type this as I listen to Jay Chou songs with 方文山's lyrics.

More of his observations on Japanese culture:
It substituted atmosphere for meaning and so caught the aroma of a feeling. Meaning or its absence hardly mattered; there was no more point in belabouring a meaning here than in trying to pin one down in a photo or a tanka. Instead of analysis, one should simply surrender; surrender to the lovely, strange trompe l'oeil
"Why you so kind?" Asked Shinji, not for the first time. My kindness, I knew, had extended so far to nothing more than accepting his hospitality, but I heard the same question from Sachiko too, and knew that it reflected not just empty pleasantly or routine inquiry: the Japanese really were anxious to know what was expected of them in return, and what kind of emotional debt they were running up. 
The latter is very true in China as well.

On space:
I began to feel i could understand a little, for the first time ever, the power of blank space. How space can live, and draw one in, as silences can speak [...]. Autumn was merely the faintest outline of a falling leaf.
I began to think how much we need space in those we love, space enough to accommodate growth and possibility. Knowledge must leave room for mystery; intimacy, taken too far, was the death of imagination.  

On a Zen story:
The roshi ended, in the classic Zen manner, with a story. Once upon a time, an old man was trying to explain to his grandson the belief of Jodo Buddhism that the Pure Land lies in the West. Practical and alert as children are, the little boy had pointed out that if you go west, and farther west, you end up going around the world and back where you first started. Paradise, in short, was all around us, if only we would stop and look.
Shorter quotations:
to surrender all of yourself to an illusion, and yet somewhere, in some power of yourself, to know all the while that it is an illusion.

Memories could be as possessive, and as wasting, as sapphires, or lusts, or hopes. 

Surface is an illusion, but so if depth. 


I am looking forward to my trip.

06 January 2016

2016 resolutions

finally wrapping this up...

Overarching Theme
Being patient (especially with self) and putting in more effort (can't lose to high school self).

1-in-1-out rule on buying clothing
With these 3 exceptions: one pair of shoes that I fall in love with; heavy-weight, textured pants (mix of this and this); the perfect 墨绿色 coat.

Exercise more
After dad yelling at me for consecutive months, I've started to do some jumping jacks almost everyday. It's both a tremendous and laughably pathetic amount of progress. Will endeavor to do some stretches every time I get up from my desk at work, and 10mins of yoga at a semi-regular frequency.

Get my G2 and learn to ride a bike
Because I want to go on road trips and want more mobility.

Pickle and bake more
More concretely: make kimchi and bread. Especially bread, because no-knead dough is so little effort and cost compared to supermarket bread.

Learn Japanese
Goal is to be more fluent in Japanese than I am in French...not a very lofty goal haha. Currently learning hiragana.

Write kick-ass grad school applications
Incidental is getting fantastic grades and producing an amazing bachelor thesis. Possible silver lining is that I can skimp on rent since I'll be living at the library/computer lab. 
Sidenote: life right now feels like chapter 10 of FFXIII, the world is right about to open up and suddenly all the things you can do is overwhelming. Still undecided on how I want to spend the couple of years right after grad, considering the following options:
  • Straight to grad school
  • Work 1 - 3 years then do grad school
  • Take a year off and WWOOF in Japan / travel around China.
  • ???

05 January 2016


An interruption in the regular programming for some tea photos, because I just learned how to shoot myself pouring tea thanks to the built-in intervalometer.
Photo note: it's difficult taking still life photos with my wide angle lens, barely any bokeh but all the distortion.

It's been a good weekend of wuyi teas, two BeiDou and a black (I think is ZhenShan XiaoZhong, but not the smoked version).

04 January 2016


I really enjoy looking back on my spending for the year, it's slightly masochistic.


But let's first focus on what I did right, namely saved enough to pay for tuition and housing for forth year. Although getting enough scholarship to cover tuition helped immensely in this aspect.

When I first did my calculation of how much discretionary income I would have leftover each month after paying my fixed expenses and saving for forth year, I was pretty disappointed with the number and consequently stressed over every little expense. To the point I almoooost wished that I had stayed in Toronto and thus can abuse the free lodging and meals at home (but then I would feel a different kind of guilt). 

I didn't think that I had won any scholarships since the notices usually came out in July / August and I had not heard anything. But it turns out that I forgot to move forward the expiry date on my YWCA address, and the letter went there without my knowledge. So the late surprise of finding out only added to the sweetness of free money.
Thank you previous self for getting good grades, and being proactive in declaring the environmental minor, because 2/3 of the scholarships were tied to that.


Of course the first thing after I got the scholarship money was to think of how to buy things to reward myself. Had seriously contemplated finally getting a Burberry trench coat, which I've been eyeing since what...middle school? Alas practicality won over and I accepted that I was still not at a point in life where I can drop 2k on a single item of clothing.

The money did get spent on other big ticketed items though, namely two pairs of boots, a new camera system, and air fare to Mexico where my mom graciously paid for the resort itself.
Since I probably won't get to posting about said boots for a really long time (the lighting is seriously bad that I need ISO1000 and a shutter of >1/20s to get a decently bright image in my room right next to the window.../rant), I'll link to the article I was saving for that post now.
More materialism, less consumerism:
Materialism has come to mean greed and avarice. But at its heart, it is about a desire for material things. For physical objects – things that can be appreciated for their texture, line and colour. Also, importantly, things that we use and are part of our everyday lives. That can be a chef’s knife, an antique table or a racing bike. As well as a well-made shoe. We interact with these things physically. We touch and feel them, often bodily. They make aspects of the way we conduct our lives easier, more pleasurable, or simply more beautiful. There is depth and richness in their appreciation, and it should not be undermined by an association with sheer volume.
I wholeheartedly agree with his view here, and extract from it two guiding principles:
  1. They are everyday objects, ie. things that are actually used
  2. They can be appreciated for an inherent quality, and this appreciation increases the pleasure of using them. 
A good example of this is my single most expensive item of clothing to date: Crockett & Jones Grace boots. With postage and a shoe tree, this came to around $800, which is more than double the previous record holder, a coat I bought at Aritzia. Is $800 a ridiculous amount of money to spend on shoes? I won't disagree with anyone who believes so, but I expect a lifetime of usage out of it (with repairs of course) and I giddily stare at my feet every time I wear it because I am so in love with the scotch grain leather and full broguing. So I consider this one of my best purchase in the year.
sidenote 1: funny comment on the C&J thread in SF saying how C&J owners actually wear their shoes
sidenote 2: good /r/GYW discussion on "value" and price point

Another best purchase, almost a counterexample towards the boots, is my Lodge dutch oven. It was $60 and is the workhorse of my kitchen. I also expect this to outlive me. Prior to buying the Lodge brand one, I was always swooning at the Le Creuset or Staub dutch ovens whenever I was in a kitchen supply store. But the two French brands cost almost 3x as much, with similar performance across all three (cast iron is cast iron is cast iron) and Lodge also having a heritage behind it's brand, I didn't see a compelling reason to pay more.

Maybe all this rambling is just to silence the nagging voice in my head that tells me I should be saving for grad school tuition with all my might.


After totaling my variable spending for the year, which was heavily skewed by the aforementioned big purchases in several categories, I can draw the following conclusions:
  • Spent a lot of money on games...ones that I can't even play yet. Even bought a game at full price (Tales of Zestiria) because it came with a limited time bundle with the DLC. Now it sits in my download queue with Suikoden I, II, III, Dragon Fin Soup, and Trails in the Sky I. Many of these titles I need to first acquire a Vita for. But I generally spend a ton of time on each game so they're actually quite cost effective entertainment. 
  • Clothing purchases, aside from the aforementioned boots, were all for work wardrobe. 
  • My grocery costs are higher than I anticipated, not sure if it's because grocery is just more expensive in Atlanta. Other contributing factors are buying a lot of pantry items in bulk that I'm still eating through, and had to set up a new kitchen. 
  • Eating out costs are highly skewed by months when I traveled, but otherwise has been mostly because of work. I did eat out a lot near the end of the semester as well. I've done well on not eating out because of necessity but rather for the social occasion. 
  • Bought a lot of houseware items, mostly kitchen and travel gadgets, because the prices are just so much better in the States. 
  • Bought a considerable amount of skincare products, but all are getting used.
  • Spent just as much money on tea as skincare, skewed by the dragon kyusu purchase. Otherwise a bunch of small orders from various retailers. 
  • Won some and lost some at air fare, will feel a lot better once I stop trying to correlate the cost with the distance. 

Concluding remark: been a struggle sorting out my relationship with spending money.

03 January 2016


So let's tackle the reflection on 2015 first.

Being on PEY...I don't recall much from the second semester of third year. Yes I remember the municipal project, which was achievement unlocked for staying in the lab past midnight, and all those concrete problem sets that somehow took 6hrs+ to do with multiple do-overs. Yeah not many happy memories associated with the deadliest year of civ.

Nah that's far from true. Third year is when I became closer with a couple people in my department, starting with suffering through survey camp together and continuing with the aforementioned schoolwork. Another contributor is the lack of time to see Chestnut friends with all of us on such different schedules. YNCN was also another rewarding and fun experience, the whole team is amazing. It's also the first club that I thought genuinely cares about and lives up to it's mission. While I loved my experience there, I'm hesitant to rejoin in forth year because of the big time commitment that is required. The two other things that I would want to dedicate myself to is research project/capstone, and grad school application, and I don't want to give anything less than full effort to YNCN if I rejoin. I already feel quite guilty about not contributing much to WISE this year as VP.


Onto PEY, I can only thank having good luck to be in my position.

Lucky that I knew beforehand that the person interviewing me was the same person that conducted the info session so I was to stalk the heck out of him online and be more prepared. Also lucky that he was so laid back, my interview was really just two questions and the rest of the time was him giving me advice about grad school. But a million thanks to everyone that helped me prepare for it.

Even more lucky that my direct supervisor is the head of the whole company's building enclosure practice area and that he is new to the company as well. These led to almost a start-up feeling to my daily work, I'm really employee #2, such as being able to work on a variety of projects, listen in on high-level strategy, and meet clients. I can now brag that I set up the template for many of our workflows. Overall, I got a lot more exposure to what being a consulting engineer in building enclosure is like compared to if I had worked in a larger team.

The few complaints that I do have is one, my boss travels to other offices a lot so oftentimes it's difficult to coordinate my workload when he's gone. Two is that I'm not doing heavily technical work, such as modelling. But it's a fair trade-off that I'm learning more of the business side of things, there's forth year for the technical knowledge anyways.

Surprising to myself, I learned that I don't actually value my career as #1 priority in life. Unfortunately I don't have a passion for building enclosure, but do like it enough to do it as a job. Initially I was really upset at this discovery, since I've internalized the whole "love your job so you won't have to work a single day in your life", but has then come to peace with not necessarily feeling like my job needs to be my life's calling. That's not to say that I will merely show up for work, I do still want to do an amazing job on projects because I have a dream one day that even a tiny-budgeted, hastily built residential building will be comfortable to live in and not degrading to the environment. I am fed up with living in shitty buildings.
Through both my trip to New York in November and subsequent discussion with Andrew in Toronto, I realized that leisure is my first priority. Leisure as time for myself, whether that's to have tea, cook a meal, catch up with friends and family, or travel. It feels so precious to have a chunk of time that you have control over how to spend, because one has exceedingly little control over anything and "Time itself, foaming, raging, and boiling like a river, roaring through this room and through all rooms [...] and Time, with its grand, unfightable sweep, taking me along with it" (quotation via Shampoo Planet).


Being in Atlanta...is good. An easy way to sum up moving here is that it's not that different and it is different at the same time.

Not that different:
  • Living alone - the gradual increment in living alone from previous years (dorm, apartment with friends, own apartment) has prepared me well for living by myself. Fits well with my introversion anyways. The downside is that it's harder to push myself to go out. Gosh I haven't been anywhere yet... 
  • General culture - the US is pretty similar to Canada (though arguable that the statement is more true in reverse), though the South is a bit of a different beast. College sports is huge. 
Good different:
  • Southern food is good. Chick-fil-a needs to open in Toronto ASAP. Also lots of good Americanized Mexican food.
  • Ease of online shopping - I'm keeping every box that I receive from an online order, shall post a photo of every box when I move out. Amazon delivery is so fast in Atlanta that my packages get delivered within two days despite not being Prime. Though this really isn't good for my goal of buying less.
  • Skipping the snow and slush of winter is pretty nice.
Bad different:
  • Not a walkable city - this is really my biggest complaint against Atlanta and why I don't want to relocate here permanently. Every other bullet point below I can stand. My walkable definition extends to public transit, I left Toronto thinking it'd be hard to do worse than the TTC, and was then swiftly proven wrong. Of course being unable to drive is a big factor in my annoyance, but Atlanta traffic is terrible as well so I doubt I'd want to drive regularly here regardless. To be fair, Toronto isn't very walkable outside of downtown either. Maybe I'm just unhappy that there's not a good farmer's market nor an asian supermarket anywhere remotely easy to get to.
  • Socioeconomic disparity between the races - let's leave this at I don't recall seeing a non-black fast food worker. 
  • A lot more areas of the city is sketchy.
To tie to above points together, an overwhelming majority of my coworkers live near / outside the perimeter (I-285) in the nicer suburbs. In fact the first acronyms I learned here is ITP and OTP, meaning respectively inside and outside of the perimeter. While inner city revitalization is starting to happen (Beltline, Pounce City Market, West Midtown), it will take time, and for now downtown is still to be avoided.


Okay that's about how long I can concentrate for today. Tomorrow shall be a financial review of the year and more thoughts on buying things. 

02 January 2016


Occasionally I get a strong desire to listen to Chinese songs from my parent's times. Usually this means either 罗大佑 or 张学友.

你曾经对我说 你永远爱着我
爱情这东西我明白 但永远是什么
姑娘你别哭泣 我俩还在一起
今天的欢乐 将是明天永恒的回忆 
啦啦啦啦啦啦 啦啦啦啦啦啦
今天的欢乐 将是明天永恒的回忆 
什么都可以抛弃 什么也不能忘记
现在你说的话都 只是你的勇气
春天刮着风 秋天下着雨
啦啦啦啦啦啦 啦啦啦啦啦啦
你不属于我 我也不拥有你
或许我们分手 就这么不回头
啦啦啦啦啦啦 啦啦啦啦啦啦
啦啦啦啦啦啦 啦啦啦啦啦啦
啦啦啦啦啦啦 啦啦啦啦啦啦
啦啦啦啦啦啦 啦啦啦啦啦啦
amen to these lyrics.
Perhaps it's the case of you start seeing a certain thing everyone once you start looking, but the lyrics are very similar to Pico Lyer's thoughts on how Sachiko behaves in The Lady and the Monk. Especially "今天的欢乐将是明天永恒的回忆". Almost done reading that book, will be a post on it soon.

01 January 2016


Happy 2016!
Celebrating the first day with some excellent Bei Dou yancha.


Unlike previous years (dang I've had this blog for a long time), there has yet to be any reflection or new years resolution posts. They are coming, I promise myself.
To use a likely inaccurate analogy, the thoughts in my mind are like a vacuum full of pairs of virtual particles coming into and out of existence. Meaning the thoughts are too transient, and I have not made the effort to turn them into anything remotely comprehensible outside of my head.

But I will make that effort!
^ half of 2016's theme.


Also wearing my boots from Cord, my first (ordered before C&J) pair of boots that I expect to last my life.

I also promise myself that there will be glamorous boot photos, as soon as I get a ray of sunshine  in my apartment (陽だまり, hidamari).