On Awareness

I saw this movie tonight (I won’t say which one to avoid any spoilers) about life and death, but mostly life as a result of the knowledge of impending death. Heavy shit, right?

Actually, it was light hearted enough to make you laugh at the heaviness of death, yet heavy enough to make you feel a bit light headed from the immensity of the situation.

Recently I’ve found myself becoming more aware of my own mortality, a simple realization that I won’t be young forever or live forever. Yes, that’s right… I’ve found the beginnings of the first wrinkles starting to barely appear on my forehead (?!?!?!?!!) and it makes me want to wear facemasks multiple times a week.

But really, enough now, because it’s not even really about any of that. It’s just a reminder that *these days* are days to be enjoyed, and that actually, San Francisco has been pretty awesome. And that whatever is on the horizon is always just out of sight. And that what’s out of sight is only a figment of your imagination, perhaps a dream. And that dreams are good for getting us to tomorrow, but are dangerous to truly desire. And that desire is just impatience begetting spontaneity (oi!) — oddly enough, the consumed always transparent to the onlookers but rarely the instigators. And that attempting to be opaque can sometimes just leave you exposed in really awkward ways. But that’s okay 왜냐면 사람이 다 같은, 그렇지? What it is.

Staring at the Same Sky

I’ve been watching the same skyline for the past three weeks and I’ve started to find it a bit comforting. Something that I don’t need to really think about “what’s going on there?” because it is so familiar. But also, not something I have to say “I don’t care about what is going on there”, because I do—it’s the city I live in.

I think the reason I take a picture of this tonight and make an entry is because my spare time has been relatively sparse lately so now I’m able to appreciate it a bit more. Hello, San Francisco!

If We Loved Like We Work

She was 16 and he in his mid 30s, maybe a little bit weird but it worked—they were together until he passed away, leaving her without the partner that she had experienced her entire life with. It was an arranged marriage, but the kind of togetherness they had is unlike what many are able to experience.

He was 25 and she in her early 30s, nothing out of the ordinary and it worked—they were taken to infinity and beyond, leaving them both bewildered when it slipped away in the span of three seasons. It was an intense relationship, and the kind of love they had is unlike what many are able to experience.

One was built upon the idea of bringing two people together who will see eachother through to the end, the other a fragile bond held together by the glue that we call love. The former a planned endeavour; contractual by nature, the latter born in an ephemeral moment of mystery; full of emotion.

So what is this all to say? Well to me it begs the question:
If we loved like we work, how would the notion of “I’ll be there to take care of things and won’t let us down, and if I do I’ll figure out how to not let that happen next time” compare to the sentiment of “I love you and I expect you to love me, and for that love to satisfy the both of us” in the long term.

I’m not resigned to taking sides here, as your mileage will always vary, but for sanity’s sake, it’s something to ponder.

Of note, I’m not throwing in the pangs of love gone awry or intentionally preaching the cynical side of relationships. This entry was the result of a conversation that involved comparing the roles and responsibilities of the workplace with the roles and responsibilities of relationships. It was a thought experiment and attempt at projecting the pragmatic intentions of co-workers upon the emotionally charged (and often volatile) nature of co-lovers, thus yielding a more even-keeled kind of interaction between people. Yes, the examples are extreme, but to leave this with some sense of optimism, the end result of this “loving like we work” might be some kind of “less” romance, but on the other hand, what starts as a logical join of two lives could end up as something much more—it’s more about the practice of the process than a query of the result.

In the Eye of the Storm

Let’s just say the the past week and a half have been “relatively busy”. You know, the kind of “relatively busy” that ends in a 14 hour slumber from 20.00 Friday to 10.30 Saturday, ^.^


Thus, yesterday and today have been put to good use in relaxation, with this afternoon’s trek around the city a welcome break from office life and cooped up apartment living. Like most good stories, it started with food—pizza to be exact, at my favorite shop in San Francisco which just happens to be a breezy two blocks from my place! Cheese with jalapeño and an orange creme soda are enough to wipe away anyone’s worries.

Walking up 16th Street to Deja Vu Pizza.

This is what I stared at for the 30 odd minutes that I used to slowly munch on my pizza. I’ll have to see if the sushi is really crazy at “Crazy Sushi”.

Afterwards, I strolled to Dolores Park where the late indian summer was in full effect. The waft from a smoldering pot cloud danced through the air and a group of hipsters in their underwear held signs that read “No Pants!”, just another day in the Mission. Groups and couples littered nearly the entire park, their half-naked bodies resembling sea lions on a grassy beach.

The parking lot just behind the fields at Mission High School.

Half way up Dolores. You can see the skyline in the distance and the massively wide open blue sky (not typical for here, at all).

Shirts, totally optional.

This is the view from the top, the one that is best enjoyed with a burrito in hand.

From the top of Dolores you can take the J towards Market, and I decided that it would be a good chance to hop the N from there and get out towards the Sunset or Ocean Beach. Since the wait for the MUNI was a bit extended, I ended up hopping off around 7th to take my old strolling path through the Golden Gate Park from when I first moved to San Francisco in mid-2008. It lacked the nostalgia I was expecting, though the familiar sights did bring a smile to my face—augmented only slightly (haha) by 2NE1 on repeat in my headphones.

These are the J tracks that go to Market.

A biker coming down past the Church and Duboce stop where I transferred from the J to the N-Judah.

Here is a J making the turn onto tracks that take it down towards the Embarcadero, notice the wonderful mess of wires above.

After 15 minutes the N came and I was off towards the beach.

Once I hopped off the MUNI. I followed exactly as my memories told me to: Once you cross Lincoln, walk through the baseball fields, around the bathroom house and arrive at the Employee entrance to the Academy of Sciences, take a right and hoof it a hundred or so meters until you come across an unremarkable mulched path leading up towards the left. You’ll find yourself surrounded by trees, an unusual experience for even this city. Follow your sense towards the opposite side of the park, meandering through the various paths (some of which have since been paved) and out past the small garden where you were once startled by the shadows of imaginary figures walking through the mist given off by the sprinklers. Across the street is a paved area where roller bladers skate to Michael Jackson and hoola hoops are common place, or take a left and hang out between the De Young and front of the Academy of Sciences.

Grassy green fields mark the beginning of Golden Gate Park.

The forbidden “Employees Only” entrance.

The woods in the park are so quiet and refreshing.

Once there, I couldn’t help but stop to dabble my feet in the cool water of the fountain pool. I’m quite certain I must’ve gathered quite a few stares as I bopped my head to music and splashed my feet like a high school girl—oh well!

The Academy of Sciences in the mid-ground and Sutro Tower in the background, the De Young is just behind me while two girls lay in the grass by themselves.

Splish, splash!

Wet feet.

And then… dry feet!

My exit strategy was less glamorous than my entrance, in fact, it was one of the routes I used to take from home to Albertson Design—the 5 to the 22 Fillmore, a 30 minute bus ride from the Inner Richmond back to the Mission. On the way I developed an annoying sense of responsiblity: that I should feed myself by going to the grocery store and cooking rather than resorting to another meal eaten out.

Though I got a healthy supply of food, I’ve somehow ended up eating ramyun and cheese covered popcorn from a bag… oops. I’m also mentally about as far away removed from work as I’ve been in quite a long time, so all in all, I’d consider today quite the success!

Crazy light causing the trees across the street from my apartment to glow.

Mellow, Mellow, Maryland

The past few weeks at work have been pretty serious crunch time, so a quick trip back to visit my parents in Maryland over the Labor Day weekend was a welcome retreat.

For the most part, just like every time before, not much changed in Maryland. The suburbs are still quiet and the summer is still humid. The house looks the same as it always has—not since my bedroom was converted into an office have I seen much sign of change there. And that’s comforting, in a way.

I left on Saturday morning and returned in Wednesday in time to get in a half day at the office. In between, I spent time talking with my parents and visited a couple of friends in Baltimore. Short, sweet, and simple.

Flying US Airways is alright, but Delta is definitely nicer in my book.

36,000 feet.

I got a pickup at the airport. Mom driving, dad passengering.

There was a bird walking across the skylight in the living room just before this was taken. Missed it by seconds.

Mid-Atlantic summers bring with them a ton of rain. No exception on this day.

Keeping it Analog

Much can be said for the instant gratification that digital brings to our lives, but don’t tell that to my Fuji Instax Mini (right side, second from top). And while image processing can become more akin to an exact science or art form, nothing can replicate the feel of light rendered through low-quality 1950s glass onto medium format film—or so says the Agfa Clack (center).

After pulling together all my film cameras for the first time in a while, I’m getting an urge to make much more use of them. Analog, here I come!

Making the Most of a Monday

When work ends, the day just begins.

I think that should be a mantra of mine, because in the four hours since I’ve left the office I feel like an entire days worth of events have unfolded.

My first thought upon getting to my apartment was, “Well, now what the eff do I do?” One episode of 2NE1tv and a bag of day old tortilla chips (leftover from last night’s impulsive burrito buy) later, my answer: make dinner.

My menu? Courtesy of Bab Story, a Korean food blog.

I was all set to head up to the Safeway that is about seven blocks away, but the lazy gremlin inside of me didn’t feel like wrestling my bike down two flights of stairs nor was I jumping at the chance to walk a mile both to and from the store. By the way, don’t give me too hard of a time, I ride a couple of miles a day to work—I just hate walking alone.

Fortunately, there are a couple of small stores right on my street and it seemed like a good reason to make a quick survey of the neighborhood’s offerings. The Chinese grocery across the street didn’t have much, plus the $10 minimum for cards was a turn off. On the next block up past the subway station I found a meat market that stocks equal amounts of Asian and Mexican goodies, including fresh (maybe actually not so fresh) tofu. Win!

After an hour of cutting, measuring, mixing, waiting, and frying, dinner was finally served. Rice, Ghetto Doobu Jorim (Season Tofu), and Oee Muchim (Spicy Cucumber Salad).

To be honest, it looked a lot better than it tasted. I’ll leave the fault with imprecise measurements for the tofu seasoning since I halved the recipe and may have added the full amount for some of the saltier ingredients… oops!

Despite that small hiccup, cooking was still a lot of fun and the only thing that was missing was more mouths to help me eat all the food I prepared. I have got to get better at judging how much food to make. On the plus side, I’ve got cucumber salad to look forward to when I get home from work tomorrow!

If proof is in the pictures, I hope you’ll believe that I’m really starting to enjoy cooking after peeping these:

Cooking is synonymous with making a mess.

The unfresh (yet still palatable) tofu frying in sesame oil (the smell of Korea).

The fruits of my labor—you may notice my less than perfect plating and slightly dry rice.

Golden and just the right amount of crispiness. If cooking was solely about texture, I would’ve done pretty well this evening.

I will be making this a lot more, it’s delicious.

After eating I washed the dishes, cleaned the kitchen, took out the trash and am now ready to get started on the evenings work. So I guess this is what real life is all about!

Alone, at last/still

It’s been 82 days since I’ve had any real semblance of true moments alone.

By alone, I don’t mean psuedo-roommates left for a weekend, friend went to the market, slept in a room separate from another person, or walked home alone from the office. No, those are moments of solitude when you can find ephemeral clarity in an otherwise hectic world.

Today is Day 1 of my own apartment, and a return to this state of mind and being.

Alone is when you wake up and there isn’t anybody else that your day intertwines with for the foreseeable future. You can shower and dance around the room naked while singing (not that I do, per se) your favorite pop songs with zero possibility that your embarassing moment of rejuveniation will be interrupted. Staring out the window or at the ceiling for an hour doesn’t yield awkward silence, it’s just spending time with yourself. And, if you want to eat breakfast at 14.00, you can—but you should probably still do the dishes before it gets too late in the day. That’s just a best practice for life.

I’ve also recently tried to distance myself from the notion of being “alone and lost” by shifting into a mindset of “solitary wanderlust”, a subtle but significant difference. But, I’ll admit, I still dabble in the former, best expressed in this project of mine from 2010.


the world *outside*  leaves us cold.
we go to a place *isolated* not only from others, but from ourselves.
free to let the mind *wander*, the *struggle* to let time pass becomes a *journey* unto itself.

View the project on flickr.

Oh, How the Days Fly By

This past week flew by incredibly fast. Daily routines of waking up at 8, going to work from 9-5 or 6 and then relaxing in the evenings brings with it a certain rhythm for life. It might have to do with me being put onto a project at work or that the newness of being in San Francisco has started to wear off and time has started floating by, unnoticed.

As a testament to that fact, I have barely taken my camera out (iPhone doesn’t count, here) and my photo count has fallen drastically! I actually have found that there is a strong correlation between the number of photos I take in a given month and my perceived happiness awareness of what is going on around me. The only exception has been July when I continually forgot my battery charger and extra battery, thus leaving me with quite few photos of an otherwise exciting time (I’ve raved about it enough, you should know all about it by now!).

So, not that I’m bored and not enjoying myself here, quite the opposite! But all of a sudden 1/3 of my time in SF has passed, and wow, I’m kinda caught off guard!

Let There Be Japchae

I’m pretty awesome. Yeah, I just said it.

Why? Why? What in the world could I have possibly done that would have me claim such a bold exclamation?

Wait for it…

After biking to the Korean market early and then to the farmer’s market to pick up fresh veggies early this afternoon, I spent the next 2 hours chopping things into tiny matchsticks, frying a boat load of goodness and then mixing it all together with hot noodles. For my second attempt at cooking in recent history (aka 1 year+) I made japchae (잡채) and the results are nothing short of amazing. Seriously.

The noodles aren’t too oily; just sticky enough to be easily eatable, the vegetables are all cooked but still retain their original flavors and textures while existing in reasonable quantities. Instead of a beef marinade, I fried some tofu in sesame oil and then put the same amount of raw tofu in the japchae. It worked out really well because the fried tofu is a little bit crispy, but if all of it had been fried I think it might’ve been too much crunch.

Some things I learned along the way:

  • You have to cut the stem off of shiitake mushrooms before you properly slice them
  • For a dish like this, cook the onions a little bit too long to make sure that the dominate taste is a sweet one (and not bitter like raw onions are)
  • Blanching spinach is really easy (boil water, drop in spinach for 30 seconds, move it to ice cold water and squeeze to dry)
  • Make sure you let the frying pan cool down before you add in the sesame oil for the noodles (I added sesame oil right after frying veggies and some of the noodles ended up sticking to the bottom)
  • Be careful when mixing by hand, hot noodles are *hot*
And with that, I’ll leave you with some photos of today’s little adventure!

Lots and lots of veggie chopping was involved.

The eggs were by far the easiest of the items to chop up.

Japchae in all its glory. After a while the oils soaked into the noodles so it’s actually not too greasy.

I only had roasted black sesame seeds, but they still taste delicious!

Ready for eating!