Aesthetics of Everywhere

The urban scene, its people and processes. Based in southern California.

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Everyday Lessons Learned: December 2011, Weeks 2 and 3

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Projects abound these last few weeks. I keep forgetting it’s nearing that time to stop and take a break.

8: There are a variety of ways that allergists test for allergies. Allergy specialists use skin tests or blood tests to test the patient against suspected allergens, and several are usually tested at the same time.

9: Vacation photos of hotels can often be misleading. Check out Oyster’s Photo Fakeouts for some particularly exaggerated ones.

10: Random Hacks of Kindness is a hackathon devoted to creating software solutions focused on disaster risk and response. Programmers assemble in groups all over the world to work on projects like raising awareness of emergency hydrants in San Francisco or this analysis of health facilities distribution in Haiti.

11: Google has a product called Fusion Tables that allows you to import your data and map it fairly quickly. Somehow I missed when this came out, even though I’m a geek about making maps. I’ve played around with the sample and though Fusion Tables isn’t what I’d call a great product yet (it’s still in beta), it’s certainly nice to see the act of mapping data simplified and opened up to the masses. See examples here.

12: In September 2006, the mayor of São Paulo banned all outdoor advertising in the city – to include billboards, flyers, ads on buses, and other forms of “visual pollution.” This Clean City law was a move intended to wash away all the garish adverts that covered virtually every surface and increase quality of life for those in São Paulo. For some thoughts on how effective this has been, see the responses on Quora.

13: The Cupertino effect is a widespread error in texts of a certain time period that originated with spell-checking software. When the word “cooperation” (without a dash between “co” and “operation”) was typed on an older computer, the word would auto-correct to “Cupertino”, a word that was commonly found in the spell-checker’s dictionary.

14: A talk by Barry Schwartz on the paradox of choice, always an entertaining topic. “The way in which we value things depends on what we compare them to.”

LuminAID light pillow15: The LuminAID is a solar-powered inflatable LED light designed by two Columbia University graduates, Anna Stork and Andrea Sreshta. It’s lightweight and waterproof, making it ideal for disaster relief. They also position the LuminAID as “a cheaper, safer alternative to kerosene lamps.”

16: Apparently there’s a language fad among female college students called vocal fry, a kind of “creaky” sounding voice. Hear an example here. But be warned, this is one of those things where once you hear it, you’ll start to hear it everywhere.

17: Read “The Movie Set That Ate Itself” and just try not to think about The Truman Show. Director Ilya Khrzhanovsky began a mock town inside of Kharkov, Ukraine, placing cameras all around this set and making it home to over 210,000 cast and crew members for six years. They’re recorded 24 hours a day, living out their roles. This is for his film Dau, and filming is scheduled to end in 2012. If anything, it’s an undertaking.

18: Composting your food waste has benefits for the environment, because less organic matter that ends up in landfills means less methane gas produced by the landfill. Currently about 98% of America’s food waste goes to landfills according to the EPA. Reduction of food waste is even more essential, as America wastes 27% of the food available for consumption – around 30 million tons of food each year.

19: An amazing story from a researcher conducting ethnographic fieldwork in China: Street Vendor Life in China.

20: Get geeky with these 3D pixelated animals by artist Shawn Smith. He uses balsa wood which he cuts to length and paints, arranging each ‘pixel’ to form these striking figures.

“For the past few years, I have been creating a series of ‘Re-things.’ These whimsical sculptures represent pixelated animals and objects of nature. I am specifically interested in subjects that I have never seen in real life.” (via Colossal)

21: Though I am planning a round-up of great end-of-year lists, The Atlantic’s In Focus series of photos from 2011 is especially noteworthy: The Year in Photos (Part 1 of 3)

Written by Crystal Bae

December 21st, 2011 at 11:08 pm

Everyday Lessons Learned: September 2011, Weeks 3 and 4

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Somehow these last couple of weeks have been even busier than the week before! Sorry for the delay in posting – here are the things I’ve learned every day for the past two weeks. Any cool new knowledge you’ve picked up lately?

16: In many places, we’re pumping groundwater faster than it can be replenished – in certain parts of the Ogallala Aquifer, for example, groundwater is being pumped 20x faster than the aquifer can be replenished. This can result in a lower elevation of the ground surface in the surrounding area.

Men riding high-wheeled bicycles, from the Smithsonian Archives17: The penny-farthing bicycle was named for this early bike’s resemblance to two coins sitting side by side – the larger penny and the smaller farthing, which was worth 1/4 of a penny or 1/960th of a pound sterling. (Bike Snob: Systematically & Mercilessly Realigning the World of Cycling by Christopher Koelle)

18: The Kyopo Project by artist CYJO, on exhibit until October 14, 2012 at the National Portrait Gallery in DC, explores the variety of experiences of Korean-Americans. The term ‘kyopo’ refers to a Korean who grew up outside of Korea. Well worth visiting!

19: At one point in time, you could send children through the post. Unbelievable? Well, there are stories of at least a couple of instances

20: We’re primed to spend more when we go shopping through a number of psychological techniques that aren’t immediately obvious to most of us. Martin Lindstrom explains a few of these with the example of the Whole Foods grocery stores. Those flowers by the front entrance? Unconscious to you, their presence plants the thought of freshness in your mind, since they are so short-lived and perishable. The drops of water continually misted onto the fruits and veggies? They also call up the idea of freshness, though the extra water causes the fruits and vegetables to go bad more quickly. Lindstrom is the author of a book called Brandwashed that discusses more of these techniques of manipulation that marketers employ so effectively.

21: In New Orleans, all-day parties called boucheries are held in backyards and will often involve cooking up an entire pig – every part, including the blood, as Anthony Bourdain discovered on No Reservations.

Rubber Shelves - Luke Hart for The Sculpture House22: Don’t wear herringbones, houndstooth or small plaids on-air. These patterns don’t capture well on TV cameras: they appear to ‘dance’ around because of the moiré effect.

23: This is probably an obvious fact to many, but South Korea has the fastest Internet speeds in the world – averaging 17.62 Mbps. The United States is in 26th place, with an average speed of 4.93 Mbps. (From a study by Pando Networks)

24: Steeling is the process of re-aligning the edge of your kitchen knife to keep it sharp. Honing steels are the steel rods that are used to hone the blade edge, and ideally, this should be done every time you use the knife.

25: Here’s a neat website called Inconspicuous Consumption – recommended for those interested in sociology, consumer culture, or product design.

26: Mosquitoes can be attracted to you by many cues, including the carbon dioxide in your breath, skin chemicals such as lactic acid, or body temperature. Basically, if you’re a breathing and sweating human being, you’re a target – though certain people seem to naturally attract more mosquitoes than others. Personally, I’ve been eaten alive by mosquitoes lately and wouldn’t mind if autumn settled in quickly.

27: Science explains: how a riderless bicycle can steer itself! Hint: it’s physics. However, the research of Andy Ruina and Jim Papadopoulos on gyroscopic torques and trail has found that these are not required to have a self-steering bicycle, as was commonly believed.

28: Eating three meals a day didn’t become the norm in the United States until as late as the 20th century. Dinner used to be the meal served at home around the early afternoon, but was moved into the evening as cities grew and more people worked further from home; the lighter mid-day meal then became known as lunch.

29: Incredible photos from the mass games in North Korea by Sam Gellman. Via Wikipedia: “Today, mass games are regularly performed only in North Korea, where they take place to celebrate national holidays such as the birthdays of rulers Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il.”

30: We’re not the only office who decided to put our geekiness on display to the world around us with Post-It Space Invaders and Mario scenes on our windows. Check out Post-It War, a project out of France.

Written by Crystal Bae

October 1st, 2011 at 6:27 pm

First sticking snow of the winter?

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We’ve had a couple of days this winter of mild flurry fall, but this morning I awoke to a nice steady snowfall that has decided so far to stick. They’re predicting a couple of inches before the day is out! Finally.

Yeah! Snow!!A light morning dust upon my street.


Also, am I the only one who had trouble figuring out this next slogan?

It reads on the 7-Eleven coffee cups: “If we charged any more for coffee, you’d have to wait in line.”
I get it now, and I guess I’ll grant that there’s value to the type of advertising campaign that isn’t immediately translucent to the consumer. It did capture my attention and force me to ponder why it was that I’d have to wait in line… It’s possible, however, that it was just my pre-caffeinated dozy state (practically slept through the whole bus ride). 7-Eleven’s strategy of mimicking higher end coffee shops is appropriate for the pocketbooks of today. Pseudo-lattes galore, eh? Let’s just say a buck and some change is far easier to swallow – or to sip – than three or four bucks of burnt beans.


Written by Crystal Bae

January 27th, 2009 at 2:02 pm

Not that I’m paranoid, but…

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Your activity is being tracked when you’re driving, using TiVo, searching on Google so that companies can better direct their advertising at you. This is nothing new, of course. But this article has a few interesting examples of which I had never heard, such as the refrigerator that tracks the brands you’re purchasing.

Happy future!

Written by Crystal Bae

June 30th, 2008 at 3:37 pm