Aesthetics of Everywhere

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

Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

Housekeeping: Website Updates

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This is a quick note to say I’ve switched from WordPress hosting to a self-hosted site, still using the WordPress software to maintain this blog. This means I have better control over layout and design options since I can edit code directly when I need to. However, for now you’ll see that my blog largely looks the same as it did before.

I’m updating some of my pages to organize them better, so don’t fret if things move around. For example, I’ve thrown up a more general Travels page which can house more specific pages in the future. I may be making more changes in the future and it’s nice to have the option to do so now. I can’t believe this blog is almost 5 years old!

Written by Crystal Bae

February 12th, 2013 at 8:08 pm

Posted in etc.,travel,writing

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Year 2012 Recap: The Good, the Bad, and the Goals

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2012 has been a memorable year.

I traveled to Boulder in the spring to visit a good friend, took an end-of-summer trip around Iceland, and spent a long weekend in Atlanta with two of my oldest friends. I rode my bike over a hundred miles in a single day (twice), followed ongoing transportation projects in the area, and organized a couple of local rides that turned out to be very popular. I went on a 50km/31mi hike that lasted 12 hours and left me with more memories than blisters (though it gave me plenty of blisters). I spent a lot of time in a tent, though I would have liked to spend more. I read some great books and also started writing more. I made lots of new friends and reconnected with others.

There have also been some bad moments in the year, such as the time my friend got into a bad crash. Or the time our apartment got burglarized. But these have also served as important learning moments, teaching me and those around me that although you have to be careful, you can’t prevent everything.

New Belgium Brewery

On another note, Adam and I spent the year tracking our drink consumption and are working now to summarize that information. We’ve got a year’s worth of data. It makes for a good feeling to track an aspect of our lives for an entire year, and in total it comes to something like 16,000 fluid ounces of beverages between the two of us to make sense of – so as you can imagine, this’ll take some time. We’ll find out if the metrics we tracked were the worthwhile ones, and see what else we can cull from the data.

Chocolate City BeerFor now, I can easily see that the brewery I most represented this year was New Belgium, a Colorado-based brewery that is well-loved in DC. Their traveling festival, Tour de Fat, even came to Washington, DC for the first time this year. Adam’s most represented brewery was Chocolate City. The Chocolate City brewery is practically next door to us, so we’re lucky to be able to fill up growlers on Saturdays.

We had beers from about 121 distinct breweries this year – and I say “about” because tonight’s drinks are still to be recorded. It’s hard to say whether there’s an observer effect here, whether we’re drinking more or less or opting for more variety because of our decision to record our drinks.

Looking forward, here are my resolutions for 2013. I’m keeping them to the goals I really want to focus on and think are achievable this year. Besides these, I have other projects in the works that will become better realized the new year.

  • New Year’s Resolution #1: Read all of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. I’m going to begin by rereading Swann’s Way (the first volume of seven volumes total), since I last read that four years ago. Just some 3,000 pages to go.
  • New Year’s Resolution #2: Learn to enjoy running. I try this every year, but I think having a dedicated running buddy will help this time around. Our goal is to run a 5K in the spring, maybe work up to a 10K later in the year.
  • New Year’s Resolution #3: More civic participation! Volunteer with local organizations and give back to the community. What’s your favorite local cause?
  • New Year’s Resolution #4: Ride more brevets than I did last year. Hopefully that’s easy because I rode only one brevet – my first – in 2012.
  • New Year’s Resolution #5 is another bike-related one: Ride 3,000 miles in 2013. Evenly distributed that’d be 250 miles/month – doable! In 2012, I rode about 2,400 miles from April to December.

Happy New Year!

Written by Crystal Bae

December 31st, 2012 at 3:52 pm

This Thanksgiving

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Be thankful for what you have: health, family (no matter how unconventional), friends (whether near or far), and the courage to work towards the unknown future.

Into the setting sun

Allons! to that which is endless, as it was beginningless,
To undergo much, tramps of days, rests of nights,
To merge all in the travel they tend to, and the days and nights they tend to,
Again to merge them in the start of superior journeys;
To see nothing anywhere but what you may reach it and pass it,
To conceive no time, however distant, but what you may reach it and pass it,
To look up or down no road but it stretches and waits for you—however long, but it stretches and waits for you;
To see no being, not God’s or any, but you also go thither,
To see no possession but you may possess it—enjoying all without labor or purchase—abstracting the feast, yet not abstracting one particle of it;
To take the best of the farmer’s farm and the rich man’s elegant villa, and the chaste blessings of the well-married couple, and the fruits of orchards and flowers of gardens,
To take to your use out of the compact cities as you pass through,
To carry buildings and streets with you afterward wherever you go,
To gather the minds of men out of their brains as you encounter them—to gather the love out of their hearts,
To take your lovers on the road with you, for all that you leave them behind you,
To know the universe itself as a road—as many roads—as roads for traveling souls.

‘Song of the Open Road’, Walt Whitman

Written by Crystal Bae

November 23rd, 2012 at 6:09 pm

Posted in past glances,writing

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Poetry’s place in each day

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Advice given to me at graduation by one of my English professors, Judith Plotz: “Carry a good anthology of poetry on your travels.”

As a scholar of Romanticism, Professor Plotz introduced me to some of my (now) favorite poets, including the English peasant poet John Clare. She taught me to memorize poetry, believing in its powers to sustain a person. She measured her love for poetry like the cadence of one’s gait, each word dropped like a step upon the earth. I’m thinking back to her advice now, as I do more walking and prepare to spend over 8 hours straight walking in the Sierra Club’s annual One Day Hike.

Parmigianino - Self-Portrait in a Convex MirrorRecently, another of my former English professors, Margaret Soltan (University Diaries), has begun to record an online poetry lecture series at Udemy, called Modern Poetry. Her focus is on Modernism and Post-Modernism. It’s a free online course, so no risk in poking around and seeing if you enjoy it. Every human being owes themselves this appreciation of language and its power. In particular, Professor Soltan goes through detailed analyses of certain famous poems, such as Ashbery’s “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror“. But it’s also just nice to listen to her speak of poetry in general.

Give poetry a chance, especially if you’re only ever been forced to read it. Especially if you find it challenging. Poetry expands your understanding of the breadth and depth of human experience, shaping language to express desire, pain, tedium.

“The present moment is constantly slipping into the past…”

Written by Crystal Bae

April 16th, 2012 at 6:46 pm

Everyday Lessons Learned: December 2011, Week 4

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Here’s to the end of 2011. It’s been quite a busy and eventful year. I’m pleased with how I’ve been able to keep up with posting what I’ve learned every day, even if I didn’t keep track in June (posting instead about my trip to Korea). One blogging tip I have – especially for longer term projects like my “Everyday Lessons Learned” – is to set aside time to post. Otherwise it’s easy to forget and realize that you’ve fallen behind. If you set a personal schedule of posting and set yourself to it, it’s not hard to keep a blog active.

Baltimore for Kinetic Sculpture Race

22: This year was the first year in over 3 decades in which we sentenced fewer than 100 people to death row. From a report by the Death Penalty Information Center, as reported on NPR’s Morning Edition. Scott Burns, executive director of the National District Attorneys Association, says one factor in this is crime rates:

This year the murder rate fell to where it was in the 1960s, meaning there are fewer people to charge with capital murder. That’s an enormous drop from the 1990s — when the U.S. executed more inmates than in at least half a century.

23: Did anyone else attempt to read the dictionary as a kid? I’m reminded of my short-lived attempt to read (not necessarily memorize) every word in the dictionary when I see this list of words David Foster Wallace copied out of a dictionary. My bookmark while I read DFW’s Infinite Jest was a sheet of paper on which I wrote all the words he used that I didn’t know the meaning of.

24: Together with the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) forms the Triple Crown of long-distance hiking in the United States.  It’s 3,100 mile long, and runs along part of the North American Continental Divide. A thru-hike (a complete hike of the entire trail from end-to-end) of the CDT takes around six months at a pace of 17 miles/day. Add that one to your bucket list.
East Coast Greenway Overview Map

25: The East Coast Greenway (ECG) is a 2,500-mile, car-free path planned to go from Calais, Maine to Key West Florida, spanning huge distances with a continuous path. Currently over 25% is already on paths free of motorized vehicles, and the rest consists of interim on-road routes while the rest of the paths are being constructed. The goal for the ECG is to link all the major cities along the way, creating a safe way to travel by non-motorized means between these places on the eastern seaboard.

26: Some of the benefits to having a green roof:

There are many benefits to a green roof including a decrease in heating and cooling costs, which in turn mitigates the urban heat island effect. Other benefits include a natural filter for rain water, an increase in the life span of the roof, a natural habitat for animals and plants and a reduction in dust and smog levels. (via ArchDaily)

27: Detroit is planning a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system that will span 110 miles with these dedicated bus lanes. This would make Detroit’s BRT system the largest in the United States. (The largest in the world is currently Jakarta’s TransJakarta BRT system.) Stephanie Lotshaw at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy says that all current BRT systems in the U.S. are under 20 miles.

28: As described in the New Yorker, the Pitch Drop Experiment is the world’s longest running lab experiment, in which University of Queensland physics professor Thomas Parnell poured hot pitch into a glass funnel, tracking how long it would take for a drop to fall. It look eight years for the first drop of pitch to fall, another nine for the second drop, and so far there have been eight drops. The professor currently overseeing the experiment, John Mainstone, predicts the next drop will occur in 2013 – no one has yet witnessed the actual occurrence of a falling drop.

29: Layaway programs are regaining popularity in America with the depressed economy. These allow shoppers to make payments on the full price of a product, only getting the product once it’s paid off. However, there’s usually a $5 service fee, which means that it would typically cost more to buy something on layaway. The option of paying for things on layaway has recently returned to Walmart. Some of the appeal of layaway is that it forces you to put money aside for a specific product, rather than spending it elsewhere, especially because of the sunk cost of the service fee and the extra fee for cancellation if the shopper doesn’t make all the payments.

30: The Teapot Dome Scandal was an incident considered the greatest scandal in American politics, before Watergate. In 1922, during President Harding’s administration, the Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall accepted huge bribes from oil companies to grant them production rights without competitive bidding at Teapot Dome, an oil field in Wyoming. Fall was the first Presidential cabinet member to be imprisoned for his actions while in office.

31: Just to come back around: In 2011, Arlington may have had its first year since the 1950s without a single murder. DC’s also experiencing a decline in murders.
Virginia Train Tracks

For some other notes in the year-end roundup, keep reading.

Traffic to my blog grew by more than 65% over last year.

Most-read posts on Aesthetics of Everywhere from 2011:

  1. Everyday Lessons Learned: May 2011, Week 3
  2. T-money for transport and more in Seoul
  3. Spa Land in Centum City, Busan (and this one I just typed out quickly on my iPod)
  4. Seersucker Social 2011 Photos
  5. “Hamtdaa: Together” at Artisphere

Cheers to the New Year! Make 2012 count.

Written by Crystal Bae

January 2nd, 2012 at 12:55 pm

More 2011 roundup posts than you’ll ever get around to reading

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I hope by now everyone’s wrapping up the year and spending a lot of time with family and friends. Here’s my roundup of 2011 roundups. Add your own in the comments!

Memories of the Future

In 2011, I…

  • Kept a running list of new things I learned almost every day.
  • Read fewer books than I did the previous year, which isn’t a good thing – but I have a long commute by bus/Metro so I’m looking to up that number in 2012.
  • Joined – and became slightly obsessed with – Quora. It’s the way online Q&A should be done.
  • Cooked a lot and tried out many new recipes, including a bunch of kale soups, pierogies, kimchi chigae, the best sweet potato fries recipe ever, and homemade salsa and tortilla chips.
  • Traveled to South Korea for a few weeks with my brother and my boyfriend. Went hiking on Soraksan, danced in Korean clubs, visited royal palaces, and made new friends.
  • Took shorter trips to Philadelphia, Austin, New York City, and Baltimore. All of them are exciting cities with vibrant cultural and artistic life.
  • Greatly expanded my knowledge and study of urbanism, public transit systems, and mapping projects.
  • Rode my bicycle all over DC, and on fun rides like the Seersucker Social, the Tweed Ride, and bike caravans with friends.
  • Started taking Capoeira classes. Fun, challenging, and an incredible workout.
  • Moved to the Bloomingdale neighborhood of DC, which is definitely my favorite place I’ve lived in Washington, DC.

Looking forward to setting some new goals in 2012!

Written by Crystal Bae

December 28th, 2011 at 8:49 am

Dr. Cornel West at GWU for “Democracy and Public Argument”

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Dr. Cornel WestDr. Cornel West is an incredible speaker. I went to see him speak on Thursday as the keynote presenter for “Democracy and Public Argument”, a series hosted by the George Washington University’s writing program. Having a background in civil rights and democracy struggles along with degrees in Philosophy from Harvard and Princeton, Dr. West is equal parts intellectual and activist.

Courage was a recurring theme throughout his speech. Dr. West poetically emphasized the courage and conviction necessary to uphold a democracy – to never take your rights for granted. At one point he claimed, “I am an anti-imperialist even when America is the empire.” So much of democracy relies on critical public discourse.

Other topics ranged from the Occupy movement (of which Dr. West is a strong supporter, speaking often with Occupy groups across the county), the Obama re-election campaign, the history of democracy in America from the time of our founding fathers, and the necessity to shed one’s ideologies to find the common truth of humanity. You can’t find the truth in a person or a civilization unless you listen to its suffering.

Written by Crystal Bae

December 3rd, 2011 at 11:09 pm

Everyday Lessons Learned: February 2011, Week 1

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01: My pasta tells me the longer I cook it, the higher the glycemic index (GI) level is. Hmm, so is that good or bad?The glycemic index is a rating of how carbohydrates affect blood sugar levels, and apparently a lower-GI food is preferable because your body will digest the glucose more slowly and evenly.

02: A coworker makes her own masala chai and gave me a run-through of how it’s made. Quite simple. She also tells me that “masala” is the Hindi word for spices, and “chai” just means tea.

Bridging the gap03: “The Answer to the Riddle is Me.” David Maclean shares his experience of losing his memory in India: “On October 13, 2002, I woke up in a train station in Secunderabad, India, with no passport and no idea who I was or why I was in India.” Listen to his story here.

04: Cape Froward (Cabo Froward) is the southern tip of South America. And my friend Tif’s been there on a five-day hike. Awesome.

05: A pantoum is a type of poem that uses a formal pattern of repetition and originated from a Malay song form. The pantoum was adapted by French poets in the Age of Imperialism. (Source and example here.)

06: Learned about Super Bowl betting squares – and won a nice chunk of cash at the end of the 3rd quarter. 🙂

07: Grid cells are neurons that overlay a grid made up of equilateral triangles onto our field of vision – and work together with other cells (border cells, head-direction cells, place cells, etc) to orient you in a space. It’s what you need to navigate a physical space. Kind of weird to think about.

Written by Crystal Bae

February 7th, 2011 at 8:05 pm

Everyday Lessons Learned: January 2011

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It’s true: You learn something new every day. I’m starting a running list of one or two things I learn each day in 2011. Here’s the summary of what I learned each day in January. It’s a long list… click on to see the rest after the first week.

1: Learned what a body roll is (in dance, not automobiles). Also, all real bellydancers should have a belly.

2: I wrote 60 new posts in 2010 and my top ten most popular blog posts of last year were:

Thanks, WordPress stats!

3: Galaxy Hut is a sweet spot in Arlington with a cool (non-bro) crowd and an even cooler beer list. Or, as my friend Hyunoo summed up: I learned that beer is still good.

4: Urban scaling is an alternative way to rank cities – perhaps some of our larger cities are not unusual cases after all. According to this kind of analysis, NYC could be perfectly “normal” for a city of its size.

5: People do a wide range of research projects under the Fulbright Program, including research on topics like fashion. Browsing through some of the project topics is great.

6: Local music appeals to me because of the connections you make with people based on a mutual passion for music and community-building. Writing a nice letter to a stranger can make their day, and a reminder that a friend of a friend isn’t such a stranger after all.

7: Learned what a cassoulet is. “Each bean tastes like it was read a bedtime story.” I also read up on West Timor (the Indonesian part of Timor) and the Indian Ocean earthquake disaster of 2004, which devastated Indonesia.
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Crystal Bae

January 31st, 2011 at 9:17 pm

The ink spills

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Dear friend,

I am penning you this letter (Yes, literally by pen, not pencil, for I feel it is an apt homage to permanence in the name of our history and continued role in each other’s lives, for though our time on earth be short I hope earnestly that our correspondence be long, and so in choosing to take up the pen I forego those hasty tools of wood and graphite, for why not wield the tools which now present (and market) themselves to us? I find myself drawing a blank (figuratively this time) attempting to balance this assertion with a view in favor of the pencil. For have we not all found the conviction to put our thoughts in ink, after a youth spent writing exercises in pencil? Does the artist disagree? Are such leanings a result of the misplaced faith in verity amidst an ungrounded world?).

Though I suppose everyone emails nowadays.


Written by Crystal Bae

December 28th, 2010 at 11:50 pm

Posted in oddities,writing