From SF to Vancouver

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Wowowow so much has happened since the last time I wrote anything I'm not sure if I can update properly.

Uh, firstly here is a textdump of stuff I typed on the plane from San Francisco to Vancouver:
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Eh back to using the windows I guess. 

There's always this weird buzz on planes in the background, that's juuust too loud to ignore. I'm listening to music right now, but the overhanging... hum? roar? of the airplane engines kind of enters my head regardless. 

De-orientation was oddly anticlimactic and sad. I didn't pay attention to my emails (as usual), and totally didn't get that we were supposed to print one of the attachments we got, so I returned my computer and phone without printing it out and getting it signed. The guys at the help desk were also unaware of it lol, so I had to swing by Jay's desk and get him to print it for me :( I'm a noob. Then I was really sad because I had to go, and Jessica made me tear up when she said bye to me because she was also tearing up. I think I've always been bad at that haha, I remember when I was leaving home there would be random times when Yujie would start crying and then I would start crying and everyone else would be like wtf is happening and :'(

my last day! :D friendship photo @ like sign hehe

Anyways, on the way to the Canadas now. Thought it might be good to update peeps on my plaaayyynneeezzz (plans/planes? idk being in the air makes me kind of delirious). A couple of weeks ago I managed to convince Kevin to come with me to Vancouver this weekend. Though I'm not sure if I can call it convincing, because it went down like this...
me: Hey Kevin, we were really gonna go to LA that time, huh? (backstory: one night, we were driving around with Jessica and George in san jose, we went past the exit for the SJ Airport and I was like "haha hey wouldn't it be funny if we just got on a flight right now?" and he instantly changed lanes to exit. We ended up in the terminal pretty damn ready to buy a flight to LA, but all the flight times were either bad or all the tickets were sold out. So we didn't end up going. For reference of how random this was, it was a Wednesday night.)
Kevin: Yeah I was ready to go. I'm still sad about that.
Me: So I'm going to Vancouver in 2 weeks... 
Kevin: ...
Me: ... and it's on a Friday night... 
Kevin: I'd be down

And that's the story of why Kevin is on a flight to Vancouver right now. I ended up shifting my Sunday SIGGRAPH shifts to hang out since he booked a return flight for Sunday, so now my Wednesday is stacked instead. But I'll update about that when it actually happens.

For those who don't know, SIGGRAPH is a Computer Graphics conference held twice a year, once in North America and once in Asia. Obviously, this year the North American conference is in Vancouver, so that's why I'm going there now. I applied to be a student volunteer because all the research being done is super interesting to me, even though I haven't done any computer graphics related courses yet or any research at all. Anyway, it's reguarly super expensive so I'm really happy that I got the opportunity to go for free.

After this week, I'm flying to Seoul, where I'll be meeting up with Alexpong and Arthur for our international photo adventure! We'll be spending 5 days there before moving onto Tokyo. I'm so excited! I haven't been to any of these places before so it should be a fun time. It was kinda weird because the flight that leaves for Vancouver is in the same gate area as the Air NZ flight back to Auckland. It was like I was at crossroads, where I could choose to go home or something. It's kinda true I guess, given the 2-3 weeks that I have left after my internship I could really have chosen to go home instead of traveling around, but I chose to travel instead because I felt like it would be a better use of my time. Not that don't miss family and friends or anything (I really do), but I know I'll see them at Christmas, and right now it's winter and bleh-y and I get enough of winter in Boston where I hate it. 

Omg captain calling to say we're starting our descent soon. Weather given in celcius. I'm so happy :) I like Canada already. Also the in flight airplane was half in French so I got to practise my French. canadaaaaa

Man I'd totally forgotten how nice it was to type on this laptop. Backspacing so smooth and fast and all the keys are just the right clickiness and distance away from each other :O Things that you don't get on an Apple Keyboard wao I never even noticed before. If only the battery and touchpad weren't so shitty, and it didn't weigh a ton haha
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Anyway, I guess picking up where we left off, Kevin and I had a fun 2 days in Vancouver! We went to a variety of places including English Bay, Stanley Park, Granville Island and the Richmond night market.

duck duck duck @night market (it was the most asian place I have ever seen outside of Asia)

We concluded that Vancouver is gorgeous.


plz can I live here

Also Canadians are so nice! The train ticket system here is like 80% honor system (they have been trying to switch to nfc for the last 3 years but people are still using paper tickets), and people on the street are just generally more courteous than in America. Also this morning when I ordered tea from a cafe, the owner offered to bring it to my table when he saw that I was carrying a lot of things and told me to just sit down first. Then, the old man in the wheelchair on the next table smiled at me and said good morning when I sat down! :O #thingsthatneverhappeninamerica

Also I met up with Charleswong and we caught up and he took me to a really filling noodle soup place which was delicious and I felt fat but so happy because it tasted so good hehe. Food in Vancouver is definitely a highlight!

Siggraph itself was really fun and interesting. I wish I got to see more than I did though :( I was on shift a lot of the time and standing for 7 hours a day is not particularly fun. But I did get to see a lot of cool stuff, such as:

A machine built by Japanese researchers which used ultrasound standing waves to generate a sense of touch -- you put your hand in the box, and there is a screen at the back of the box. A leap motion senses hand movement. The screen shows a particular image, and if you move your hand inside the box, it feels as if you are touching the object! depending on what image is shown, you feel a different texture or sensation. It was really really cool :O I asked the guy how much it cost to build and he said $10 million USD. I was very careful after that haha.

The japanese seemed to be very big on ultrasound and haptic touch sensation. There was also a machine that used ultrasound waves to draw patterns on carpet. Eg, those types of carpets that when you swipe in one direction turn a darker color -- they had essentially made something that could, given a predrawn pattern, use ultrasound to create it on the carpet. It was pretty innovative!

Birdly, a machine that uses Occulus rift and a strap-in contraption to make the user feel like they are flying like a bird.

I got to try the Occulus DK2, you know that thing that people at Facebook waited hours in line to try and I didn't wanna waste half my day for so I didn't bother waiting for it? Yeah I waited 5 minutes this morning for a demo. It was cool. :P

(Photo by Domo)

I sat in the driver's seat of the Tesla Model S. It was sexy. The guy also told me to go in for a test drive :P too bad I'm leaving tomorrow and have been busy all week haha. Actually this was a very lucky occurance -- I was waiting in the line to try the Tesla and started talking to the guys in front of me. They turned out to be nice people so we exchanged contact details and I ended up hanging out with them later! Thanks Farhan, Domo, Sam and Jacky for being such good ambassadors for Vancouver haha.

(Photo by Domo)

Epson also had a printing station where they let attendees use really fancy printers and paper and inks for free. I printed a bunch of posters for myself and friends, it was hiiighhh glosss and soo pretttyyyyyy. I wish I had printed more now but I'm not sure what else I would have printed. They also had a printer that could print on tshirts, but due to my shifts I got there too late and so I only got the larger sizes :( 

Platypus shirt which is too big for me

Pixar teapots!! Every year at Siggraph, Pixar gives out different designs of walking teapots. It's a real collectors item and in serious high demand (like honestly a teapot from a couple years ago goes for ~$150 on ebay). This year they gave out 1000 per day for 3 days. Since I had shifts during midday on both Tuesday and Wednesday, I was only able to get one today. But they're so cute! I started lining up at 10.45am and the line already curved all the way around the exhibition hall and behind a screen @_@ Luckily, handing out teapots is pretty quick so once they started handing out at midday we were able to move forward very quickly. 

 (Photo by Domo)

As for some of the shifts I had to do, some were better than others because i got to see stuff that was interesting to me anyway. My first shift was at Technical Papers, where researchers present the bleeding edge of what they've been working on. It was super interesting and made me think that maybe I should try doing some research just to see what it's about -- actually also I ran into some people from the University of Toronto who were working on some Computer Vision stuff and the head Researcher knew Professor Zickler from Harvard. I guess I should take his class hahaha. Anyway, I digress. My last shift was also a production session for Xmen: Days of Future Past. There were actually three visual effects studios commissioned with work for the movie, and I got to see how they handled Mystique's morphing/feather rendering, the Sentinel's design and the breakdown of my favorite scene from the movie, the one where Quicksilver runs around the kitchen and everything is in slow motion and it's hilarious and great and beautiful and heeeeee.. it's really amazing what you can do with visual effects! and it's also just kind of hilarious when you see magneto acting all badass in the middle of an empty studio with only green screen around him. Really makes you respect actors and what they do because all the epicness we see on screen is certainly not there during shoot time.

Aaaanyway, I should probably post this before the next leg of my adventure because otherwise i'm gonna forget and have way too long of an update. At the waiting lounge now for my flight to Korea. Slightly confused because all the flight people keep trying to speak to me in Korean and I look blankly back at them. This should be interesting.

Narratives of our lives

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Story sheep
(Context for people who don't know who this is: This is SHREK, a merino sheep from New Zealand who avoided capture and being shorn for 6 years between 1998 and 2004 by hiding in caves. He took 20 minutes to shear and he produced 27kg (60lb) of high quality merino wool, enough to make 20 large men's suits.)
(Context on context ie. why I am including this story: because I always include a themed picture of a sheep on my blog posts these days, and he is kind of the sheep with the most impressive story.)

Over this summer, I started to get into a weird habit of asking people to tell me a story. I'm not really sure how it started, but I think one day I was sitting on the edge of a comfortable silence, ready to fall into awkwardness, when the words kind of rolled out of my mouth.

"Tell me a story."

Not like a polite request or an aggressive order, more like a curious command. The other person looked a little surprised, but obliged. Fascinated by the power of this simple phrase, I ended up using it over and over and again and again until my new friend was all out of stories over the next few weeks. I felt like I gotten to know a stranger and I had gained a new friend. And so I was satisfied.

I think a lot of people fall into the trap of thinking they are boring people, or that not much happens in their lives compared to others. I'd like to contest that; I think most if not everyone has such interesting things to say if only they would pay attention and try to present it in book form. I'd bet that a lot of people would pay attention and be interested in what they have to say. In the end, I wouldn't say the stories I was told by others this summer were super extraordinary of anything, but they carry with them a sentiment of the familiar, of nostalgia that I too had once put away in a box in the back of my mind.

These are the narratives of our everyday lives, the stupidly ordinary tales we tell of silly things we used to do and think and eat and play with. Not only that, but they comprise an ever-changing narrative -- as we grow and learn and change, our narration reiterates into a more cynical, or dismissive, or hopeful lens through which we look upon the past.

Story-telling is a social habit with startling longevity. It's how we propagated our history before records existed, it's how we accumulated experience through generations and, of course, it's how we make friends and get to know people today.

I decided that stories are probably my favourite way of getting to know the inner workings of people's minds. You can learn so much about someone by their choice of language and their perspective on their experiences. In the purest form of translation, intangible thoughts and feelings are translated into something that can propagate to and blossom in others. And for each of us that tells a story, many more also gain something to retell through their own lens, leading to richer and richer experiences.

Can these still be considered truth, given that they've been pulled and stretched and warped beyond what the original storyteller ever intended? I'm sure different people would say different things, but my opinion is that it's irrelevant; the experience of sharing a story is like retweeting a tweet through a chain, where eventually you run out of characters because there are so many @tags of people's usernames -- though maybe the original tweet is lost, you now have a net of friends tied together with 140 characters. Storytelling is like the glue that dries transparently on relationships, so barely noticeable that you probably would never even attribute your friendships to it.

Maybe I'm just too metaphorical of a thoughtster, but I really enjoy the idea that such subtlety in language can reveal the beauty of an undiscovered mind.

Am I still a kid for making people tell me stories as if they were my grandparents? Yea I'd say probably. Still going to enjoy them though :) 21 and hungry for tales of adventure! Message me if you know a good one :D

heres me and the cheesecake my friends bought me for my birthday :3

irrelevant unless u r interested in stalking my summer

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Hi mom and dad (my primary audience, because nobody else cares)
watching the world cup final right now
nobody's scored yet :(

paintball/fluro sheep


Man I'm just bad at updating derp. Okay things that have happened recently --

July 2nd, Bridgewater Associates held a recruiting dinner in Palo Alto which I was invited to. I honestly just accepted the invitation because I saw that the restaurant was The Sea by Alexander's Steakhouse and I wanted a nice free meal (was not disappointed, legit hamachi shots + tuna sashimi as appetizers and then fresh fish, lobster bisque, scallops and raspberry and hazelnut themed dessert), but tbh it was also good to meet new people and find out more about the company, I'm a little more interested in them now. Anyway the reason I bring this up is because I met a Stanford grad student who mentioned that he did archery, and that he knew of an outdoor range nearby so we made plans to go in the weekend. Anyway I will do this in chronological order so this will be continued after a brief july 4 interlude:


Over July 4 weekend, some friends and I went down to Monterey Bay (it's ~1 hour drive south from where I'm living right now) to visit the aquarium and the beach. Many cute animals were observed. On the drive back, we decided we wanted to get fireworks/sparklers because it was July 4th. But, fireworks is actually illegal in most places in California because it's so dry here and it's easy to start forest fires. So we weren't sure if we were going to find anywhere to get them. In a coincidental turn of events, we were waiting at a stop light when we saw all this smoke coming up from behind the next building... so naturally we decided to check it out. It turned out to be a parking lot where people were setting off fireworks and someone had set up a tent selling them. So we found our fireworks for the night :)

July 5th, Jim took me and Jessica to the archery range :D! It was weird to shoot outdoors, and it was also further than I had ever shot before lol so my accuracy was not great. But it was fun to get back into it! The range was mini-golf style, with ~15 targets arranged in a forest loop trail. Some targets were ridiculous (like ~70m away, over a valley -- ie. if you shoot short your arrows are just lost forever derp), so we skipped those. it was also hard calibrating for uphill/downhill shots lol. So much fun! My arms are weak tho and Jessica got a bruise because she swiped her arm with the bowstring, even though she was wearing the arm guard haha:


We have matching bruises! Hers is from Archery and mine is from paintball the next day lols. It was suuuuper hot in Santa Clara, like I literally felt like I was gonna get heat stroke (especially since ppl kept telling me to wear long pants and cover up to avoid it hurting a lot when I was shot). In the end, we played 3 games and I only got hit once in the last game, mainly because I was too skee to come out of my hidey hole in the first 2 lols. But I think I managed to get someone in the 2nd game :D paintball is hard tho, and idk if it was really worth struggling in the heat for :/ maybe it's just too intense for me, some people are super serious about it.

I bought a film camera! Time to snap some film. No light meter battery lolol, let's see how terrible my estimation is... (+1 for instagram shirt + hipster camera)



Last night we went to a Brohaus party. It was a lot of fun, though I'm not sure if after I graduate college I would like to be throwing parties in my own house. It might be doable if we had a cleaner or if we had a separate house just for parties lol, but I commend the hosts for throwing a great party, seems like they have been doing it for a long time and know how to do things the best way haha. There was a room for light painting photos! So fun :D I also borrowed Chae's captain hat and marauded as a captain for some of the night. Here r me and kevin taking myspace profile pic and some blacklight fun :D!



Tonight will be another hot pot night too

Yaaaay congrats to Germany!!12!1@2!11  schweinsteiger is a punching bag apparently derp
okay now i can go and do things bye soccer is over :)

Flying

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hayyy I'm blogging on a plane. This has never happened before.

Sitting on a flight between NYC and SF trying to escape the sunset of the day. 

Short-form thoughts: 
I am really hungry
I should do some work on this wifi but I don't really like working on planes
Actually I don't really like planes
But they are the fastest way of getting where I want to go I guess 
Why is this flight so long
America is supposed to be one country dammit
Before anyone argues with me about the picture being a goat because they have been red herring'd by the horns, it's definitely a sheep. Because the tail is pointing down, and if the tail points down it is a sheep. 
I like the macbook air's uber battery life
This week was fun but the stay was so shortttt
NYC subways are way too hot in the summer. I thought heat was supposed to rise?
Yujie I miss you

I think the wifi I paid for is about to run out so I will publish now. 
real update soon! because it's almost July so I have to.

PS. also removed the tagboard/cbox embed on the right because i was getting too much spam and too lazy to remove it as I always have. RIP cbox!

wat do with summer

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WOW I LITERALLY
HAD THE MAKE POST PAGE OPEN
ON MY LAPTOP FOR THE LAST 4 DAYS

 and didn't start writing until now :/ procrastinating hard on this June post clearly.

It's that awful thing where so much has happened since the last time you updated and you don't know where to start in describing it all or even if you should split it up into different posts to be more readable and then you push it to later and hand wave it all away...


... but it's okay because it's summer and the sun and blue sky makes me a happy sheep :3 !!

Uh so basic stuff:
School ended
I bummed around and lived in Eliot for a few days before flying to SF
Commencement happened
I traveled to the west and bummed around in empty apartment for a few days
Work started
I made new friends and started grilling my brain in software

Alexpong visited last weekend! So I went up to SF and saw a Giants game with Alexpong, Anson, Tony + Rakeem. Garlic fries at the stadium are delicious. I stayed up there for the weekend had lots of fun going around SF and eating foods and going through rummage sale and buying cheap things.

Liiikee, this old lens for $20!


It's an old 7 elements 6 blade Super Tak 50mm f1.4 from the 60s or 70s I guess (7 element = there are 7 bits of glass inside the lens, 6 blade = 6 aperture blades and therefore hexagonal shaped bokees), and it's one of the few old lenses containing Thorium, a radioactive element. So over the years the glass ages and becomes clouded with yellow, which looks really awesome but doesn't allow as much light to come into the lens. So, I purchased an LED light to shine down it and clear it up (pumping the glass full of high energy near-UV or UV light will reverse the reaction and yellowness). I am pretty sure that my whole team at work thinks I am super weird because I have 3 lamps on my desk and a tinfoil burrito wrapper chilling there with a lens lol.

And I also ordered a film camera in the mail which should get here on Thursday... I think after that I might try to do another photography related post about lenses since it's going to come with 2 more hehe. I look forward to playing with them this weekend.



... and I just realized I have like nothing to say about my life wow fml.

Go download and play with Slingshot or something




[[uhh... it doesn't appear this post embed is working ._. unsure why]]

Oh so that reminds me (hehehe look a Facebook post embed) -- my first official task at work was to implement saved default embed widths. You can read about it in a blog post which accompanied last week's release here. I'm responsible for "per user default embed widths" which is the 3rd subtitle haha. Before, embed widths would always default to 466px, so now it remembers your last preferred width so you don't have to change it again the next time you want to embed something. It's a small extension but I was really happy that it shipped so quickly!

Uhh what else? I have been trying to go to the gym every morning. It leaves me very relaxed and numb for the rest of the day but is also quite tiring. But I like that I am feeling more fit less unfit now. I wish I had more time in college to do things like this haha. I also kind of like the routine-ness of the day. But it also makes things go a lot faster.

I also had time to watch some movies -- the Grand Budapest Hotel, the new Xmen movie and How to Train Your Dragon 2. All of them were good and I enjoyed them a lot :3 I wish I had more time to watch movies derp but also I think I am getting old because staring at such a big screen for a long time gave me a bit of a headache. Or maybe I was just tired that day haha

Next week, I will be in New York at the Facebook NY office, so hollaaaaa if you're around and want to hang out after work.

Ah! I was accepted to the ACM SIGGRAPH Student Volunteers program, so I will be in Vancouver from August 8 - August 15, volunteering at SIGGRAPH :) I owe Professor Morrisett for being my reference, I am super excited and can't wait to go :D And then after that I will be traveling in Asia, in Seoul and Tokyo until school starts again.

Wow summer is going so quickly! @@ Before I know it I'll be back in Cambridge complaining about homework qq

Something about photography: Part I maybe

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Hi kids


So I guess this month's post is going to be about photography. Last weekend was AAA's spring photoshoot over Weeks' bridge and I realized a lot of people have misconceptions about how photos come out the way they do. So I thought I'd do a post about it.

Basically, there's something to be said about the difference between the effect of the camera body, lens and post-processing on a photo. A lot of people who don't know much about photography kind of lump the body and lens together as the 'camera' unit, and don't really think about post-processing. I used to be like this before I started taking photos. 

There were two cameras that we used primarily to shoot with. One was mine, a Sony NEX7 and Alex's, an Olympus EPL1. As you can tell from the images, the type of camera used doesn't matter as much as the lens or the post processing. Unless you're doing professional photos, a good kit lens will do you pretty well. A step up from that would be a fast lens for bokehgons in the background. (A fast lens is a lens with a big maximum aperture, or low f-stop number. This means it can let more light into the camera at once, and there is a shallower depth of field for subject focus (see physics textbook). For instance, the image below was shot with a lens at f2.0 which is relatively low. My lens ranges from f1.7 to f22.)

^bokehgons (bokeh = blurry background, bokehgonz = our slang for hexagon-shaped blurries)

There is also the difference between the types of photos your camera can produce. RAW and jpeg photos both can come out of your camera. Fancy cameras can even let you shoot both of these at the same time. RAW files are not really images at all, but they are a set of numbers that tell the information for each pixel. So, they are completely uncompressed and literally are the numbers that your sensor reads from the light entering the camera. If you have a 24 megapixel camera, each RAW file is 24 MB big. If you have a 10MP camera, your RAW files will be 10MB big and so on. Think of RAW as an intermediate step between taking the photo and making a JPG. More often then not, people will let the camera process the RAW into a JPG, but sometimes it's more helpful to immediately save the RAW and process it later on the computer. 

Here is a test shot I did with my camera, one that was RAW and which I converted into jpeg after loading onto my computer, and one that was converted by the camera into JPEG (neither have been post-processed except for the raw to jpeg conversion):

^RAW
^JPEG

(Both these taken with Sony Nex-7 with kit lens)

EDIT: The nex-7 seems to have a really subtle difference between RAW/JPEG that people can't quite spot so here's a starker example from another camera I found online (source):



The differences are pretty subtle, but basically the colors on the RAW without other tweaks are usually flatter/duller (In the bike photo, you can kind of see this in the sky, the contrast between the water and sky in the jpeg is greater with the sky being lighter, whereas in the RAW they are more similar). This is because the processor in the camera puts emphasis on certain things to make the picture look better, while an untweaked RAW is exactly what the camera sensor saw. Some of you might ask, "Why shoot RAW at all then?"

So the reason I'm even talking about this is that because RAW files leave behind all the extra numbers, they're much nicer to post-process or edit since there is a lot of information retained that may have been lost if it had been thrown out in a jpeg compression. For instance, if you had been shooting into the sun and your subject's face is dark, you could easily pull out their features if you have the RAW file even if in the photo it looks completely black. This would be nearly impossible to do with a jpeg.

For the AAA photoshoot, I post-processed pretty heavily, since it was cloudy that day I wanted to add more of a warm atmosphere and brighten things up since it was supposed to be a spring photoshoot derp (it was actually slightly drizzling while we were taking photos). Here you can see some before/after comparisons for reference (I use Photoshop CS6 to edit my photos, you can also use Appeture or Lightroom for this task):



Taken with Sony Nex-7, Pentax 50mm f1.7 lens

Since I use photoshop, I'm able to save the edits I make on one RAW file (in the end, it comes down to transformation functions on numbers in the RAW file) and apply them to other photos. I did about the same thing for every photo, for consistency's sake. Of course, what comes out of the transformation depends on the input of the RAW file. Since we were actually shooting RAWs with two cameras that day, you might be able to spot some differences between photos' coloring since I used the same filter transform for photos from both cameras since I was too lazy to make 2 separate filters to make them absolutely consistent derp. For each photo though, I had to fiddle with the sliders a bit for optimal brightness and contrast. 

So, to illustrate what I mean by post processing vs camera/lens:



this photo was taken with Olympus EPL1 &  Panasonic Lumix 20mm f1.7 lens.  

You can kind of tell that the Olympus RAW picture is a bit brighter than the one from the Sony. But with slapping on a filter and twiddling some sliders, we can make them more or less consistent with each other. 

Okay so now that we've got that out of the way, you might be wondering what post-processing can and cannot accomplish. Basically you can change pretty much anything with post-processing EXCEPT:

- Blurriness/motion blur:
unsalvageable. usually due to long shutter exposure


- Out of focus:
unsalvagable (the background is in focus, the subjects out of focus. click to zoom if you're unconvinced, this is a more subtle example). happens due to bad focusing, either autofocus focused on the wrong thing or manually


- Noise, to some extent:
^original test shot. usually due to high ISO
^50% noise reduce (You can do this in Adobe camera raw. This is already super high, I usually don't like to go above 20 or 25). you can still see the noise
^100% noise reduce

Note it is sometimes desireable to have some noise in your photos. Makes it look more film-like or nostalgic, and especially works well with black and white photos. That being said,  you can add it afterward.  Digital noise looks really bad compared to to real film grain though. 

This is a noisy ass photo and I kind of like it that way


Mostly, I just use post-processing for color correction/lighting adjustments or to remove skin blemishes for portraits. I have also been known to cut together two shots to get what I need out of them lolol: 


^ before and after of a headswap (I took another photo of Eric on the left and Jesika on the right was blinking, but it was easier to swap in Eric's head from that pic than Jesika's)

You will see the advertising industry use the liquify tool in post-processing to make models skinnier/shape things as they see fit (and garnering media criticism in its wake). I only use liquify for fun such as to give my male friends boobs or bigger biceps hehe.

This is getting long so I guess I'll wrap this up for now, hopefully that gives you a taste of what post-processing can achieve. If people like this maybe I'll do more about cameras/lenses/more about editing/let me know :3

On nationalism, travel and culture

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So I was sitting in my Math class a couple of weeks ago, mentally reading out the equation I was supposed to be solving. "x + y + z" ... "ex plus why plus zee" --

Hold up. ZEE? Had I really just thought that in my head? As someone who learned the alphabet ended in Zed, this was a mindblow moment for me. Had I spent enough time here in the USA to become, God forbid, one of them? Had all the teasing of my slightly curled 'r's over the summer really been a reflection of a changed national identity? Should I try to turn back? Should I just plow forward and become full blown 'MURICAAANNN?

Yeah, it's comical. Here I was questioning everything I had ever known about the alphabet in a multivariable calculus class in my fourth semester of college. To be fair, this experience, coupled with a few other things I've been thinking about for a while led me to wonder what my thoughts were on changing culture as a result of travel, and how this all fit in with nationalism. So I guess here's my exploration of my thoughts in writing.

To start -- Let's be real, nationalism is huge in the US. From awkward Annenberg dinners where people would stand up and sing Stars and Stripes, or Primal Scream where dozens of naked bodies chanted "U-S-A!" with a large American flag while they ran through the Yard, American patriotism is kind of inescapable here, and it's led to the 11% of us who are international students to be left confused and awkward in our seats waiting for the national anthem to end and for our friends to sit back down to continue our dinner conversations.

I've never really been a fan of nationalism, since I think it leads to a lot of unnecessary competition and unhealthy antagonism purely out of "my country is better than yours". Sure, I like to wave around New Zealand's history of social progressiveness and recent ranking of #1 in the world in terms of freedom and social mobility, but that's really out of a response to the rampant patriotism here than anything else. Given the possibility, I'd love for all countries to have such good records of freedom and social welfare, as well as all the things that New Zealand is perhaps not so good at.

Furthermore, as an international student who is not only from New Zealand but who was also born in China, I'm not really sure what to make of my national identity. I feel like a lot of my experience gained from all these places I've lived has impacted me and the way I think about things now. So, why categorize myself under only one nationality? Like a magpie, I could just collect customs that I like from places that I visit. If this means I prefer and use the pronunciation of the letter 'z' to be Zee rather than Zed, so be it. Someone did bring up a particularly convincing argument that it makes the alphabet song rhyme.

There are many things I've picked up in the states, which I'm not going to be ashamed for on accounts of "becoming one of them", thanks friends at home who will nonetheless tease me about it. Likewise, there are plenty of things I've grown up with and probably would never change about myself brought over from New Zealand and as part of my family's Chinese background, even if it means being a perpetual foreigner and being seen as "Un-American" (to be honest, the Americans have enough of a problem accepting their own citizens as part of their nationality, so I'm not even going to try to qualify).

Another thing that makes me go "Hmmm" is the recent-ish (okay, like one or two months ago) controversy surrounding a Harvard Grad's opinion on Auckland University's policy for international student, which Alice Wang has an excellent piece in the Herald about. What makes me go Hmmm is all the comments saying that the university exists to serve its national students and its national students only. Also talk about immigrants ruining the country. I don't really understand it, possibly because I live in Auckland and have no concept of the rest of the country's perception of multiculturalism. Regardless,  I feel like this inner-country centric thinking is somehow doomed to fail. The world is more open than it ever was and you get weird people like me who don't really know where they belong floating around everywhere, and that's kind of a great thing.

Maybe because I've been an international student here, and it can be kind of isolating when you're constantly reminded that you are second-class (what are the words the government uses? Oh yes, NON-RESIDENT ALIEN) compared to regular citizens.

In my ideal world, one would be able to travel around until they find a place where they feel like they really fit in and enjoy the culture of the place and just be able to live there like anyone else. And if or when they get bored of it -- go somewhere else for a few years, why not? This of course would only be truly ideal after we fix all the problems in most of the world right now, but let's at least try to work toward that goal instead of turning inwards and shutting off our borders to everyone outside out of what -- xenophobia? fear of culture dilution? economic failure? 

In whatever case, my passport has a silver fern on it but I'd like to be considered a citizen of the world if I could. All I want is to be able to ride an American sheep while eating escargot with foie gras and have Gelato for dessert with chopsticks. On top of a kangaroo. (And those those are just the places I've seen so far :p!,) 

One of the 1%

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I wonder if they know how it feels, those knife-eyes on the street, the picket-sign waves of the 99%, outside my office. I wonder if they have lived my rather yacht-less, mediocre 1-bedroom apartment life. My suit tailored with bleeding, pricked hands in the middle of the night in my kitchen, next to the drip-dripping of a faucet that our landlord has promised us to be fixed but still isn't, smashed dishes strewn across the ground from a fight that left me here alone with our son, barely asleep in the next room.

I wonder if they see through me, entering the workplace in the morning in my grandfather's old jacket and changing, ashamed, in the bathroom before I begin my day on the floor. I wonder if any of the wandering subway-sitters notice me and think anything of this seemingly scruffy man getting on at the Wall Street station.

The beggars on the train plead with tears in their eyes that I spilled on the floor of the hospital, hands shakily taking the scan from the light box of my son's small body.

Leukemia, they told us it was.

Since that day, my life began to be defined by sterile white walls and the sickly smell of too-clean fluids. A new page wiped clean of joy with rubbing alcohol which only stung our eyes and hearts. The insurance company wouldn't give us anything after they learned about the condition, and then of course She left in grief.

So I look at these picketers and bitter folk, and question What was I to do? 

I bluffed my way to the trading floor with only medical fees in mind, yet they continue to make me feel guilty for the riches I have apparently stolen from them, for the weekends I do not spend holidaying away from my son's bed, for the checks I hand off solemnly and dutifully to the white-coats; they continue to spit at my ugly faux-leather shoes and scream injustice as if my life were better than theirs.

I wonder if they know what it's like, seeing their angry faces and feeling shame and embarrassment for my profession, the only thing that will put food on the table and keep my son alive. I wonder if they would trade places with me if they did.

On days where I feel soulless, I am probably twice as bitter as any of them -- and it is not because of greed.

springbreak or something

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Hi it's spring break!

The first half of the semester is terrible and makes me want to bury myself in a cave.

This sheep is me and the fence is CS124.


But spring break is fun! I went skiing for the first time for real (I have technically been once before but never got off the bunny slope and nobody really taught me properly so I decided that it doesn't really count as skiing) -- we went to Butternut Ski Resort in the Berkshires (Western Mass / North NY state) and stayed at Adam's grandparents' place. I learned to pizzawedge and turn and it was fun, though I move at the pace of a snow snail because I am afraid to crash into a tree. Did a few runs of the mountain over the two days, and I even did some "more difficult" trails! Though I never once made it down the mountain without falling derp. Alexpong has a great video of me falling for apparently no reason after moving a vertical distance of about 1m.

skiing success!

This was additionally an excellent opportunity to try out our cooking chops (hehe, puns). So, we took to the supermarket and bought ingredients for 4 days of cooking :3 We ended up broiling strip steak with mashed potatoes and green beans for the first night, chili and cornbread for the second night, stirfry for the third night and short ribs + egg noodles for the last night. Of course, interspersed with Josh's apple crumble and banana bread and bacon and omelettes in the mornings, this meant that we ate like kings. We wondered why HUDS could not provide such quality on a daily basis.

broil broil broil drool


We also watched the Lego Movie yesterday in our rest day. I really miss having the time to go out and watch an inordinate number of movies. I suppose it also puts some relief on my wallet but still, the time is swallowed by the abyss of CS124 and I dislike it very much.

So after those few days in the snow, we took to the van again and drove down to New York City :) Alex nearly crashed trying to parallel park, but I probably would have crashed it for real. I managed to meet up with Tony also, since his spring break coincidentally lines up with ours. We also ate more noms food like ramen, desserts at Spot, 20c dumplings with hand pulled noodles in Chinatown, and sushi~
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coconut cheese cake with coconut + basil ice cream!

look its a tony

omg my phone screwed up this entry due to parallelism problems so i had to reupload everything :(

I'm still alive

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I just haven't had the time to update yet.
But seriously I'm alive.

Look you can keep track of how alive I am by the phoots I post every second day.

Back at college

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qq why snow qq go away


I guess since the last time I updated, I went to Fiji, hung out with my friends and family in NZ, and that's pretty much it before I came back here. Nothing of particular note took place, it was a lot of eating out and barbeques, snorkeling and sea kayaking and sunbathing in Fiji (the fish are so cute! And the water is super clear so after kayaking out we could see the coral underneath the water and the weather was gorgeous that day except obviously I didn't take my camera kayaking so I didn't take any pictures).

One of my most enjoyable last days was getting stranded in Mt Roskill with Yujie because her car broke down while we were driving on the way to brunch. Lol ok maybe not that exact moment (though it was somewhat humourous in retrospect), but I enjoyed the day overall and seeing the cute bunnys dogs ands peacocks at the pukeko cafe :3 And spending time with her ofc! +1 totally should visit me

Trying to sort out my classes currently. No idea what to do. Taking CS124 (data structures and algorithms), Math 21a (multivariable calc) and 2 others .. but all the classes I want to take are lotteried lol. US 35 seemed interesting (class about education policies in the US), and I guess I'll hold out for Thursday's VES 19 class to see what that's like. I also woke up early today to go to a product design class (ES 22) which was pretty cool too, but 9am seems early hahaha.

I have been trying to declutter my life recently. I made a new years resolution to not buy any clothes for the entire year. Also, I need to throw old clothes out, esp my old jeans that don't fit well / have holes in them from overwear. :/ Maybe it is a result of that, but I feel like I need to have a cleaner blog layout now too lol. I haven't changed this layout since like 2011 or 2010 if I recall #lazy. Not sure if I will ever get around to it either haha.

Uhhh... I wish I had more substantial things to write about. I noticed a lot of things I wrote about in high school were actually about nothing / enjoying life / chilling out / not serious topics. I also feel like I am currently not qualified enough to talk about any serious topics / other people talking about them have already said serious things and I don't know what I can add to the discussion. I can also share my thoughts about things (any requests?) but I feel like this may be slightly narcissistic. But if you want me to share my thoughts and opinions about a particular topic, please let me know so I can be inspired haha. I have been thinking of doing a post about religion for a while since it seems my thoughts about it are somewhat uncommon (in my experience anyway), but I wanna hear what ppl are interested in first :)


OH ALSO!! My friend Serena got together with a few friends and made an intellectual online magazine targeted toward young girls and women -- please support her and visit at www.hvngrymag.com -- you can even submit content (credited or anonymous), and it already has some great content on there and it only just launched last week. So proud to know her hehe.


And lastly here is a shameless plug: Alex and I started the 365 a photo a day thing on tumblr -- we're alternating days so it's slightly easier to keep on it (I'm on evens, he's on odds), so please support us :) We've only been doing it for 9 days so far (tomorrow's the 10th), though some people have already thought we failed because they thought we started on Jan 1. Unfortunately we missed that memo but hopefully we still finish sometime after the new years in 2015 haha.

HERES THE TUMBLR: http://phootgraphs.tumblr.com


Today's phoot of the day by alexpong

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Requested: FBU Essay 2013

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Disclaimer: This is my essay from FBU's application last year. I don't know how they chose the group of freshmen, so it could very well be that this essay is not actually a good essay (nor do I claim that it is a good essay in any way haha). But, since I was asked for it, I just put it here so anyone who wants it can have it so it's fair.

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Prompt: In one page, please describe how you think mobile technology can help the world become more open & connected?


A study by Netguide NZ this past week showed that 84% of smartphone owners say they use their device daily, and 45% of say they use their device more often than in the last year. Similarly, 44% of laptop owners say they use their laptop more often, but PC owners predominantly reported using their PCs less (26%) or the same amount (53%). I am currently sitting on a bus from Boston to New York City, and in my very limited field of vision I can spot 3 laptops and 4 smartphones out and being used, all while the vehicle is in motion. Mobile technology is clearly everywhere, its ubiquity waiting to be taken advantage of.

By its very definition, mobile technology is designed to be carried around – it follows every one of us in our daily lives and if it were a person, would probably know more about us than our closest friends or family members. Through a combination of this fluid mobility and communication technology, it becomes possible to reach anyone, anywhere and at any time as long as they are carrying a mobile device. Personal information transfer in particular becomes almost instant; I can ask a favor of a friend in New Zealand for my roommate in Massachusetts, put them in touch with a high school classmate in Paris -- all while sitting on this bus – and boom, three people who would otherwise never have met are in contact with each other.

Mobile communication gives people a reason to connect with each other. It may seem strange for many to speak up to a stranger in real life, but because mobile communication and especially social networking sites like Facebook make it much easier for someone to show who they are at a glance online, it becomes easy to filter those who we would like to get to know better – I find out that she likes the same bands that I do so I know we have at least one point of common interest to talk about. Though this increased transparency of society is a double-edged sword in terms of privacy issues, as this balance is fine-tuned it is clear that the potential to make the world a more open forum for any discussion at all is rooted in this technology. The free internet is by definition open: an open space for anyone to express themselves, to share their experiences.

Furthermore, these waterholes of open experiences are for anyone to drink from. The way mobile communication keeps the world connected is obvious, but the full extent to which it does may be underestimated. The internet itself is unequivocally a gold mine of experiences to learn from: websites like Reddit or Quora allow people to learn about things they may never come across in their own lives, an opportunity to live the life of someone else for a short paragraph or thread. However, when this potential for knowledge growth is coupled with mobility, its effects are multiplied. In a world where people are more active, doing more things outside of their homes, moving around not only within their own cities but between them as well as abroad, mobile technology becomes indispensable in the sharing of experience.

As an international student, I can’t imagine losing contact with my friends back home, as I learn from their experiences just as I tell them about mine. We live different lives, but for a few seconds with the use of a messenger app on my iPhone, maybe on the short walk to class, we connect and our experiences collude. Mobile technology has the ability to exponentially grow human knowledge and experience and make everyone richer for it, with minimal effort and no strings attached (literally. Thank God for cordless phones!).

The social impacts of mobile technology are enormous. For the first time in history, it is possible to ask a stranger online how to prepare for a technical interview on Quora while sitting in the waiting room, to learn the ins and outs of the safe industry on Reddit in a matter of minutes and to find out more about someone than you would be able to in the timespan of a first meeting simply by seeing their Facebook profile. While whether this is positive or negative is widely debated, one thing is clear: the impact is there and it is acting every day. If we can harness its effects, mobile technology could very well be change the ways in which humans communicate with and learn from each other.

2014 it's lovely to make your acquaintance...

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... but did you really have to come down in a fit of rain?



Wow what do I even say? 2013 felt so new and then it was old again. A lot happened and I learned a whole heap of stuff? Uh...

In the ways of recent things, I've been home for a week and quite a few people have said that my accent has become Americanized. HOWEVER -- yesterday I was in Sylvia Park and the cashier lady at Life Pharmacy asked if I'd like to sign up for their membership, and when I said I don't live in the country she was confused because I had an NZ accent :P so there.

So since I came back, I went shopping a few times, baked a few cakes, watched some movies (The wolf on wall street, rush, the bling ring, the winnie the pooh movie, frozen -- can I just gush about how great Frozen was? I went in with pretty high expectations since everyone I know who's seen it had such great things to say about it, and I still left with those magical disney feels.), and hung out with people I haven't seen in a while.

Oki now I suppose I'll reflect on last year's resolutions:

1) The Usual Academic Resolution 
Lol my GPA dropped from last year to this year. It's okay. I think this semester I got stressed out at times because of the workload, and I was made to think that I was a workaholic. I'm still somewhat dubious about the extent to which this is true, but there's no denying that my grades are important to me; I like to know I'm doing well and they're an indication of whether I'm on the right track in grasping ideas. Learning is important to me.

2) The Usual Exercise-Related Resolution 
Oh god. I had a pretty good streak going through the summer when I ran every day for 15 minutes, but after college started again that kind of died. Tried to do an assisted pullup this semester with ~100lb assist and still died. Why so weak? Idk... I also went to a hapkido session (a -- yes singular). I learned how to do some basic grabs and how to fall, and my body was surprisingly sore the next day. Badminton seems to be full of graduate students so I don't go very often at all :/ Now I'm a blob again. Alexpong let's exercise properly next semester for real though.

3) The Usual Social Resolution -- New and Old Friends 
I met so many new people this year! Probably because of a new year at college, and also traveling in the summer. Different people are so intriguing, and I also really enjoyed getting to know people I didn't really spend that much time with before even though we both knew of each other's existence, like George over the summer! It's of course harder to do that in NZ since I'm not here most of the time, but I'm trying to catch up with people when I come back and keep positive relationships :)

4) Create a more comfortable self. Don't slip back into fickleness. 
Looking back, I'm somewhat convinced that I had some kind of social anxiety issue when I was younger. I'm still sometimes like this but I'm definitely more open and confident about certain events. Eg. before, every time before I had to meet anyone new or talk to shopkeepers even, I'd get a little bit panicky (my heartrate would rise) and I'd have to run through what I was going to say in my head before I said it. Actually in class whenever I had to speak my ears used to get really red because I didn't like public speaking that much. College has helped somehow, I'm not entirely sure how it happened -- I do have a theory that because it forces you to reflect on yourself and make your own decisions often, I am less able to be simply an observer on the wall and actually have to proactively do things day to day, so I'm less involved in other's lives and more in my own (this has had an odd side effect in that I'm not as good as remembering people as I used to be, and I also stalk people's lives less since I don't have the time).

5) Be more patient with others, less self-absorbed, think of others' needs. 
I'm trying very hard to be more selfless, especially in my relationship and with my friends. I think I do have a tendency to be impatient at times (more so when I am disgruntled to begin with), but I'm trying to control it better. I think outwardly facing most people I don't know very well can't really tell, but I'm still trying to get rid of the inner conflict of putting myself before others and thinking of my own interests first. I do sometimes worry about being taken advantage of, but I believe (logically at least) that the overall thing I'm trying to achieve will have more positive net impact than negative.

6) Gain experience in the field. Try get an internship, see if CS is the right path for you 
I declared CS! :) I'm officially a CS major eee how exciting. With a minor in Studio Arts :) Anyway, 2 summers at Facebook should be enough to see if I like the software engineering path. I did have some reservations after agreeing to come back for the summer, and everything else suddenly looked so much more appealing (psychology of seeing things you can't have anymore I suppose). I've decided that next year I will try to get something in the film industry or do some research. Gotta get out of the SE bubble and try something new. I am leaning toward grad school after college currently but still mostly unsure about what I want to do with the rest of my life.

7) Read more 
Books I read for pleasure this year:
Lolita, Vladimir Nobakov
Inferno, Dan Brown
Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell
Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg
Golden Bones, Sichan Siv
Orange is the New Black, Piper Kerman

Eep that's around 1 per 2 months. I could do better.

8) As always, Have more reasons to smile than frown.
Haha of course. I still think I'm the luckiest person in the world. :)

Some resolutions for 2014?
1) Be a hard worker and don't get lazy
2) Learn more about the world eg. take a few history classes!
3) This belly flab has got to go }:(
4) Learn how to web one way or another
5) Take more time to do art
6) Watch your spending and exercise self control. A few good things is better than a lot of crap...
7) Commit to bettering the communities you're a part of. Don't take on too much so you can focus on concentrated impact.
8) :) > :( have a great year!

A TWELVE HOUR LAYOVER

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If I'd known this was how it would have turned out, I would have taken the later flight out of Boston and taken the $300 travel credit. This sucks. My 730 flight was delayed til midnight and thus a 8 hour layover (which is already the longest I've ever had) turns into a 12 hour layover :(

Luckily I managed to nab myself a table at the gate so I can bum around here and hog it for the next 4 hours.

Now I guess I will just write about random things.


First thing's first -- here is a picture of the Harvard turkey/one of the Harvard turkeys (I have yet to confirm how many there actually are running around, since I only ever see one at once). isn't he cute?! Actually I have no idea if it's a he or a she. Actually it's probably a she isn't it? Since there's no crown... do turkeys have crowns? :/


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Here's something I thought of during the summer:
    Isn't it cute how pedestrian lights beep at one another for the blind? Their calls are staggered, such that the one on my side starts the call and the one across the road responds instantaneously; a conversation breaks out between the two sides as I cross the road, all the cars at the intersection stopped as if to listen to the exchange. It almost seems as if they are not only guiding us across safely, but also catching up with each other, telling the stories of what they've observed throughout the day from their vantage points on opposing corners. It's even more amusing when there is a 4 way intersection that all lights green at the same time -- oh, the commotion, the energetic blabbering of a full mahjong table awakening on the intersection! All this while a patient rectangle of cars sits still, waiting for the conversation to cease and the business of the day to continue.

I wonder if anyone else has ever thought of it that way, or if I'm just a weirdo. George certainly thought so when I brought it up while crossing and listening to the chirpy back-and-forth.

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My finals are over and I think my final class grades come out tomorrow. My compilers final turned out to be 25 true/false questions which I thought was rather trollish of the professor, and also caused me to do pretty horribly (I got a 68. That's a 17/25 -- I probably would have done better on a real exam =_=). However the final grade for the class that the TF provided was a 91, so hopefully not everyone in the class got a 95 or something, and then I should be fine... Math was okay, I'm not really sure how I did, I got a similar feeling from the midterms which means I probably scored around an 85% which is not horrible but not really as high as I was hoping for. Well, we'll see I guess. Systems was horrible for everyone, so I actually have no idea what to think lol.

This semester was pretty challenging I think, my longest pset took almost 30 hours no contest, the average time spent with Lukas on compilers was 20 hours a week, I was 1.5 weeks late (past the allowed late days post-deadline) for a certain systems pset, my VES animation looks like a derp's work, and I discovered that not doing math for a year makes one super rusty on math related things. So, yay! But, I learned a lot and had fun.

Oh! I am also serving as AAA's publicity chair for the coming year. So I get to make posters and publicize events and stuff, which should be fun :)

And next semester, I'm going to be a TF for CS51! Watch me be terrible at OCaml and not know what is going on haha. Actually when one of the lecturers called me to tell me that I got the job, I was in Chinatown and we'd just lost half the people we were with so I thought it was one of them calling me, so before I got who it was on the other line I yelled HEY WE'RE OVER HERE and waved really extravagantly in real life. The guy was like "huh...??? This is Jesse from CS51..." I was like OHH OMG IM SORRY herp. #embarrassment i am just a special flower ok

I also bought a 3DS over thanksgiving JUST for the new Phoenix Wright game and have been very diligently finishing it up. I'm on the DLC case now which I'm almost done with. It was very fun. Now I can give it away lol.

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The day after finals finished, I went out for dimsum in chinatown with Alex, Tony and Patrick as Tony's last meal before he went home. Then, Alex and I decided to walk around for a bit and take photos. We kind of went wandering because we didn't know where to go and we found this really weird tube thing:





It just sounded like if you put your ear next to a shell. You could kind of hear the ocean. Maybe it was supposed to be cool if a boat went by or something, but it was weirdly underwhelming for such a large device. Anyway look you can also see all the snow. I did not enjoy the snow as much as I did last year. I guess it gets old really fast. It's too cold, and turning into slush is disgusting. At least I have waterproof shoes this year. Last winter was kind of nasty with wet feet :(

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Here's a concept design for my personal website I threw together this afternoon at the airport in photoshop. I have no idea how I'm going to code it at all because I don't code websites. It might be a fun learning experience or I might get frustrated and give up and it might never come to fruition. So here's the beginning concept anyway lol.


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Okay I passed an hour. Most of the time spent was waiting for the images to be uploaded lol. Ummmm.... maybe I will finish Phoenix Wright now? Or I could keep reading Orange is the new Black (I just bought it at the airport book store! I actually wanted to read the Joy Luck Club but they didn't have it in stock). OR maybe I should actually take advantage of the desk I have and start trying to code this thing up? 

... nahhhhhh #lazy