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Goals for 2015

I always have some vague notion of goals for the year, but because I never write them down, I forget about them in a few months, and never hold myself accountable. I’ve split my goals here for all aspects of my life, except work. That’s because I don’t know enough yet about how to measure my work achievements. I hope to revisit this list by mid-2015 and add/evaluate.

Health:
– Pick up another sport besides running, perhaps tennis?
– Have less meat-centric meals
– Learn how to properly cook Chinese food from mom

Relationships:
– Regular skype dates with long-distance friends
– Arrange some regular social gathering (ie. board game night, knitting night, watching-a-certain-TV-show night, etc)

Creative outlets / Hobbies:
– Read more, write more
– Attend concerts (classical and rock)
– Regularly practice the piano, now that I finally have one!

That’s all I can think of now. I know I say this (to myself) at the start of every new year, but gosh I do hope to blog more! Maybe I’ll do that through the food blog…

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Mid-December is my favorite time of the year.

Yes, I love the mulled wine, the scent of pine, and the excitement in the air as everyone prepares for the holidays and the New Year. But primarily, I love that everyone is publishing their “favorite music of the year” lists. I can spend hours listening and exploring music I’d missed throughout the year and reminiscing about my favorites.

Here I’ve listed my my favorite albums of the year. A strong album for me is cohesive as a unit, and is memorable as a collection of pieces instead of the individual songs. This list will be very similar to other people’s lists, because I’m not a true hipster. I’m not trying to show you bands you’ve missed this year. I only hope to write down (mostly for myself) my personal connection to these albums. And in case you don’t know the band, I also included my favorite track of the album.

Grizzly Bear – Shields
Grizzly Bear’s 2010 masterpiece, Veckatimest, is not only my favorite album of that year, but also one of my favorite album of my life. When my grandchildren one day ask me to introduce to them the music I liked when I was young, I will definitely pull out this album and make them listen to it until their ears bleed. You know, for education. This is to say that I set an impossibly high expectation for their next album. While Shields will never take the same place in my heart that Veckatimest has, it definitely met my expectations. For one, this album SOUNDS evolved and different, and I really appreciate that in a band. I like hearing bands grow and morph instead of rehashing the same sound (ie. Best Coast or the XX, which is why I didn’t include those new albums on my list). The lush and complex harmonies are still there, but no longer at the forefront. The catchy pop melodies are still there  layered with unexpected instrumentation and arrangements.

EDIT: I realized after I wrote the rest of this entry, that I associate all other albums with an emotion or image. But all I get out of listening to Grizzly Bear is a purified enjoyment of music. That probably makes no sense to you, since it barely makes sense to me. Perhaps that’s what they call “Cerebral Music.” That’s not to say I don’t get emotional listening to Grizzly Bear. After all, I was that dufus crying at their concert because I was JUST. SO. HAPPY.

Beach House – Bloom

The album cover perfectly depicts what the album emotes to me. It feels like such atmospheric, dreamy music that when I close my eyes, I imagine standing in the center of a four-sided mirror-room with some LED lights (yeah, I know, oddly specific). No matter which direction I look, there would be an endless array of lights. Anyways, the whole album just feels so cohesive. Mike mentioned that he loved listening to the album when walking home while the sun is setting — I can definitely see that sentiment.

Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheeler is Wiser than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

Side note:  I just named one of my samples in lab after her today! From now on, in my presentations I’ll say “When I shined a 532nm green laser on Fiona, she lit up and I could see both NV neutral and NV minus defect centers in her.” I’m pretty excited about this. My other sample’s named “Dr. Dre” because he’s badass. At least I he’d better be. If he disappoints me, I’ll TAKE OUT THOSE KNEECAPS

Uh, sorry, I got distracted. Where was I? Oh right, Fiona’s latest album. I’ve been a pretty big fan of Fiona Apple, but I don’t always love every track in her album. The same is true of this album, with the exception of “Every Single Night.” That’s one of the few tracks I’ve obsessed over this year, playing it on repeat for weeks. The minimalistic quality of the album just leaves such a haunting impression on me, I can’t even remember the songs, only how they make me feel. Fiona’s voice is even more controlled and she manipulates her voice to really twist your guts and chafe your heart. When I listen intently, focusing on the song and the lyrics, I actually feel emotionally drained by the end.

Passion Pit – Gossamer
Unlike the three albums I just listed, I hadn’t listened to any Passion Pit before this album. I just love it. It’s completely crazy and takes you on an emotional rollercoaster. The songs are manically happy, but the lyrics are so angry and depressive, that by the end I don’t even know what to do with myself. What I always gravitate back towards are those damn hooks. Every song in catchy and satisfies my pop craving. If I ignore the lyrics, I can jump up and down while spinning in my living room, letting the music pump me up.
Grouplove – Never Trust a Happy Song
The album actually came out in September 2011, but I didn’t discover it until earlier this year. I also wanted to include another album from an artist I wasn’t already a huge fan of (otherwise I’d probably include The Shin’s Ports of Marrow). Grouplove pumps me up similarly to Passion Pit, but I don’t really understand the lyrics (you’re such a lovely cup / why doncha fill me up …. wtffff???), which means I can just focus on being happy. While Passion Pit is to be enjoyed barefoot in your living room doing the combination of spinning and jumping that I described above, Grouplove is best enjoyed in a car with friends screaming incoherent lyrics. It’s noisy, it’s grungy, and it’s just pure FUN.
Up next: my favorite songs of 2012. I’ve been compiling them and I’m super psyched about sharing it. The list is going to be longer and more eclectic. JBiebs will be making an appearance. I swear I’m not actually pretentious about my music tastes. I love me some Top 40 pop!

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List of happiness

Being happy is hard work. I’d consider myself a pretty damn happy person most of the time and I don’t think I could be asking much more of life at this point. But even when I’m at the peak of life’s oscillations, there are some bad days. (It’s too bad the oscillations aren’t periodic, because then we’d be able to take the Fourier Transform of it and find the resonance frequency and be able to predict our future)

Hence, I’d like to remind myself of what generally always makes me happy that I don’t do enough.

  1. Waking up earlier and getting a head-start on the day without the morning rush
  2. Playing the piano
  3. Exercising
  4. Cleaning up and and then looking around and enjoying the new cleanliness with a cup of hot tea
  5. Reading
  6. Knitting (okay, I’ve been doing this one a lot. It keeps me sane)
  7. Looking at pretty things in real life (Browsing design blogs on the computer doesn’t count. Touching unaffordable clothing at the mall does)
  8. Sleep (I actually do a lot of this also…)

I hope everyone has a little list like this to help you out when you’re feeling a little under the weather. Hopefully we can maintain a relatively constant supply of happiness around to keep us afloat through the waves that life crashes on us.

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Two observations on this lovely Thursday morning (why is this morning lovely? I finally managed wake up before 8am, instead of snoozing for over an hour and a half. I tend to snooze for such a long time, the alarm decides to ignore me and simply shut off. And because today I finally woke up early enough to get to the office before 9, I had the pleasure of walking through Central Square and Harvard Yard breathing in a crisper warm air than the suffocating blanket of heat that starts later in the day.)

1. Are there any phrases that you hear people say all the time, but upon seeing it written on paper you realize you’ve misunderstood the phrase all your life? For example, just now I saw “quote unquote” on the New York Times Magazine. I’ve been saying “quote on quote” all my (English-speaking) life. Now the phrase makes so much more sense! Can you think of any other examples of this happening to you?

2. Who invited foamy soap? I hate that person because I have no idea why soap ever needs to come out of the dispenser pre-foamed. Foaming up the soap in my hand makes me feel productive — why would someone take that joy away from me?

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I was going to make this long post about my three-week trip to China; about the World Expo, visiting Yellow Mountains, and all of the crap I had to deal with at airports. But I am too lazy to write words, so enjoy these random assortment of pictures instead.

First we went to the Expo in Shanghai. There were many people, the lines were long and all the pavillions are huge.

I'm on a horse! I'm on a horse! I'm on a motherfucking horse!

Abercrombif and Titch, a word that reminds me of Bitch or Tit but def. not Fitch

We climbed Yellow Mountains. It was beautiful but my pictures didn't come out so great. I'm trying to coverup its crappiness with an artistic black-and-white look

Is this image of the Yellow Mountains better?

This is a rock on Yellow Mountain. It's named after what it looks like, but the name is not what you think it should be.

We visited Hong Cun in AnHui province, a very beautiful ancient town

But at the end of the day, the best part of going home was family 🙂

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People who constantly say “You know what?” or “You know what I’m saying?” or “You know what I mean?” in conversations.

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TV shows

I love TV. This is a long list of what I’m watching currently (yes, I only watch what’s available on Hulu)

Drama

Lost – This is the only show I’ve followed from start to finish. Too bad the series finale will be happening when I’m in China! I wonder if Hulu works there…
House – Slowly losing interest in it, but when I’m bored enough I’ll watch it.
Parenthood – Just started getting into the show. LOVE IT! My favorite drama right now.
Desperate Housewives – Terrible show and only getting worse. And yet I can’t…stop…watching….
Chuck – Recently got really into it. Mike and I watched the first season in less than a week.

Comedy

Modern Family – I wish there was a new episode of Modern Family every night. I just can’t get enough of this show! My def fav right now.
Better off Ted – It’s officially been canceled by ABC, but it will always go down as one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen. Also, can we talk about how Cougar Town, the worst show/acting/premise EVER, is renewed while Better off Ted had to be cut??
Community – Decently funny…sometimes. I mostly just watch it for the 30 second skit at the end of each episode.
Parks and Recreation – Also just decently funny sometimes.
How I Met Your Mother – Used to be hilarious; now just painful to watch. Haven’t been following for a while now…When will the storyline progress?

Really bad television I secretly like just a teensy little bit

Real Housewives of New York City. I know. I’m sorry. It’s just…the drama! It’s memorizing! Don’t judge me too much: I’ve only watched 1.5 episodes.

Show that I’m afraid to watch because I know I’d be obsessed with it and I’m really trying to pretend like I’m better than everyone else by not watching it

Glee.

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