Aesthetics of Everywhere

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

Archive for the ‘China’ Category

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: October 2011, Weeks 3 and 4

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The theme of the week is: mind control. And food, as usual.

15: Research by the Yale psychology department a few years ago found that the most persuasive word in marketing to consumers was the word You. The other most convincing words were: MoneySaveNewResultsHealthEasySafetyLoveDiscoveryProven, and Guarantee.

16: During a recession, teeth-grinding goes up; shark attacks go down. Teeth-grinding, or bruxism, is often triggered by daily stress, which increases during periods of financial stress. As this often occurs at night, it’s difficult for a person to control (that’s if they even know they’re doing it). And why fewer shark attacks? Fewer vacationers.

17: Less time for play might be causing today’s children to grow up more anxious and depressed. There’s no question that unstructured play time is essential for proper mental development in children, and psychology professor Peter Gray believes it’s even linked to rates of clinical depression and suicide.

18: The body of a dead whale can itself sustain a complex underwater ecosystem as it decomposes. The process of decomposition takes something like 50 years, meaning the whale’s dead body sustains life for around the same length of time as it was alive. A whale carcass that has fallen to the ocean floor is called a whale fall, and certain species have only been discovered at whale falls.

19: Corning is a glass company that is the manufacturer of Gorilla Glass (which protects smartphone touch screens), along with other specialty glass. I recognize the company from their very well directed, futuristic advertisement, “A Day Made of Glass” – meaning their advertising is pretty effective.

20: A vigilante group in Veracruz targets drug cartels.

Romanesco Cauliflower21: The Romanesco cauliflower is a broccoli-cauliflower hybrid. See image at left. It’s a naturally occurring fractal. Nature and math are awesome.

22: More math! I don’t think I can explain this better, but read on because it’s fascinating: NYC water towers (via kottke).

23: The jackalope is an imaginary creature that resembles a giant rabbit with antlers. Sad about the imaginary part.

24: Tacos are an amazing food, whether for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Especially for breakfast. Anybody know a good place to get a breakfast taco in Washington, DC?

25: Zombies = big business.

26: Rodízio is a style of Brazilian dining in which the waiters bring skewers of meat (or other foods) around to each of the tables, and the diners choose how much to receive. The meal is prix fixe, so one flat fee will get you as you want to eat.

27: The Occupy Wall Street movement has an app for informing those who need to know that you’re getting arrested.

28: Focusing one’s attention is a more daunting task than it seems – our brains receive over 1 billion pieces of information a second, but we can only consciously process about 40 pieces of information at a time.

29: The true size of Africa in relation to other countries: Top 100 Countries by Area.

30: I like these somewhat random finds. History of the Chinese Actuarial Profession, by Xie Z.

31: You can learn a lot about your neighborhood by sitting on your stoop/porch/stairs and greeting the people who go by.

Happy November, now. This entry’s shorter than usual because I’ve been swamped with work and moving house. Fall moving right into winter.

Written by Crystal Bae

November 1st, 2011 at 8:31 pm

Everyday Lessons Learned: October 2011, Week 1

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A lot of moving and shaking this month. Let’s make things happen and learn something new every day. Here’s what I’ve learned on each day of the first week of October.

1: East African elephants are terrified of bees, and will emit a rumble as an alarm call in response to the sound of the African bees.  Science Magazine reports that this is the known finding of an alarm call amongst elephants.

2: Who knew watching paint dry could be this entertaining? Watch Pipe Plant by Sasha Aleksandrov.

Ghost city in Chenggong - 10,000 empty apartments.3: China is absolutely riddled with what are known as ghost cities – entire cities devoid of residents – which if occupied could house over 200 million people. Some photos from Quora user Brian Roemmele help drive this point home. Nevertheless, China continues to build at the rate of something like 16 new cities per year, many of which lack the most essential resource to a city: its people.

4: HTML microdata is information about a web page that can be added to reduce ambiguity by providing semantic meaning to online search results. provides guidelines on how to markup your web content using microdata. The benefit to doing this is that it indexes your web pages more accurately by the major search engines, like Google and Bing.

5: Because of the way English bulldogs been bred to select for certain traits, such as their wide shoulders and narrow hips, they are unable to reproduce naturally. They require artificial insemination and a cesarean section to give birth. This intensive breeding process also makes them expensive dogs to purchase.

6: You can sign documents electronically. It’s likely that I knew vaguely that this was possible, but I’ve never e-signed a document before and it was exciting to see how simple the process is. They’re legally treated the same as regular signatures in the U.S.

7: Pasta carbonara involves a specific process of cooking with an egg. I assumed it referred to a type of sauce, but real carbonara involves a raw egg that needs to be handled in a way as not to clump up or overcook when it’s added. The egg is added after the pasta is cooked and drained – it’s cooked by the residual heat of the pasta. After looking through a few recipes, I’ll try my hand at making this soon.

Written by Crystal Bae

October 9th, 2011 at 6:56 am

Everyday Lessons Learned: September 2011, Week 1

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Happy September!

01: Your senses are delayed by about 80 milliseconds. Your brain can align inputs from simultaneous sensations (traveling from different distances through your body) so they’re experienced in sync – in a way, your brain waits before registering the information it has gathered from your body.

New Yorker cartoon posted on David Eagleman's blog

02: According to a recent CDC report, 5% of Americans drink over 550 calories of sweetened drinks daily. Teenage boys drink the most of the sugary stuff.

A spotted Furby03: Caleb Chung, the creator of the Furby, wanted to improve upon the electronic pet idea (like the Tamagotchi and Giga Pet – very popular in the 90s) by creating a toy that could appear to be responsive and emulate machine learning. The more you played with a Furby, the more its vocabulary seemed to grow. It was programmed to gradually move from an unintelligible “Furbish” language to the English language, though the toy itself couldn’t actually hear or understand anything that was said to it. The Furby’s emotional expression are tracked to its ears – essentially serving as both its eyebrows and its arms. (Radiolab)

04: Pickling cucumbers doesn’t require many ingredients: cucumbers, water, vinegar, sugar, salt, garlic, and dill. I haven’t tried making them myself but hope to soon!

05: Verbal overshadowing is a term used to describe the strange effect studied by Jonathan Schooler: those who wrote down a description of a bank robber immediately after a staged crime actually had a harder time remembering the details later than those who didn’t describe the person right afterward. But his data began to regress towards the mean… (This one’s fascinating. Listen to the whole story here.)

06: The first Piggly Wiggly supermarket opened in Memphis, TN on this day in 1916. It was the first of its kind: a fully self-serve grocery store, in which customers could pick their items off the shelves without having to write an order to the clerk. According to the commemorative plaque at that site, “shoppers presented their orders to clerks who fetched goods, ground coffee beans, measured flour and sugar, and then added the bills in pencil on the back of sacks.”

07: An interesting analysis of China’s dependence on tobacco:

Smoking in China remains a highly gendered behavior with 57.4% of men and 3% of women smoking, respectively (WHO, 2010). The concentration of smoking among men reflects advertising and marketing strategies that have linked tobacco to traditional notions of masculine identity (nanzihan – 男子汉), political leadership (imagery of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping smoking) and expressions of nationalism and patriotism (cigarette brands such as Zhonghua – 中华). Anthropologists such as Matthew Kohrman have described how exchanging cigarettes forms the currency of male networking and friendship in rural and urban China (Kohrman, 2007).

Written by Crystal Bae

September 8th, 2011 at 7:40 pm