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Chinatown, Chicago

18 Feb

It’s been a while since I’ve done a plain old photography post, and I have some neat pictures from today, so here goes.

I went with my dearest bros down to Chinatown today to see the New Year’s parade and get dim sum.

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We got there after the parade started, and it was totally mobbed so we missed a good chunk of the beginning, and probably some of the best floats…



But there was still a lot of good stuff to be seen.  Including a bunch of adorable kids from the local schools:



I saw a lion dance for the first time at my school’s Chinese New Year gala, and I was really happy to see more.  I love pretty much any kind of dancing…



Of course, after the parade, everything was absolutely hectic.  We managed to snag some cotton candy before we fought to get a dim sum table at one of the massively over-crowded restaurants.



We did finally get into a restaurant, not dim sum sadly, called Lao Shanghai.  I had heard good things about the Lao restaurants, so I figured it was a good bet.

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And ohhh, it was.  The wait was tremendous, first to get seated and then to get food, but goddamn, it was worth it.

Although… there was a group ahead of us.  And by group, of course I mean two parents with a small horde of babies.  Who got the big dim sum table with the rotating center.  For two adults.  When there were six of us.

Can you feel my anger through your screen?  Because we were all mad as hell, let me tell you.  I hope someone stole their damn stroller while they were eating.


Anyway.  Up above there are pork shao mai and Shanghai dumplings, which were insane.  The pork we perfectly marinated and incredibly juicy, with really good seasoning.



We didn’t know what these were–Shanghai Man Tou–so we ordered some.  Turns out they’re just dough…  So that was a little disappointing, but we were glad for having tried them.  And dipped in the bitter sauce that was on our table, they were pretty good anyway.

My favorite by far were the xiao long bao, which are soup dumplings.  I didn’t get a picture because I think my roommate would have stabbed me if I had delayed her eating any longer.  I had been wanting to try xiao long bao for a while, and I am still thinking about them even though I’m not remotely hungry.

I was reading about dim sum last night instead of doing anything productive, and apparently there is a story surrounding the origin of bao.  There was a military strategist in ancient China who was trying to cross his troops across a really tumultuous river that they had little chance of fording because the river spirits were mad as hell about whatever spirits get mad about.  The spirits told the strategist that if he brought them 49 human heads, they would let the troops past.

Of course, the strategist was like, “To hell with you, I’m not sacrificing my men to you assholes”, so that night he and his men cooked a ton of meat and wrapped it up in dough so that they were shaped like human heads.  They gave these to the river spirits who said, “This looks legit.  You can cross, I guess.”

Ecce, bao.



We went to a Chinese bakery next, in search of anything containing red bean paste.  We hit on Chiu Quon Bakery, which has a ton of amazingly delicious food, almost all for less than a dollar.  Needless to say, we ate… quite a lot.



My friend Katie, very happy with her red bean bun, not as happy with her pink eye.



I got an almond cookie (and then a whole sleeve of them to go, which I ate way too many of not long ago),



a giant puff of angel food,



and a red bean moon cake!  Which was so, so good.  Ah, I am going back to that place very often, I can tell you.  I know China isn’t nearly as big on dessert (or not the same kind of dessert) as America is, but I love what they have.



One of the highlights of the evening was sitting in the back of the bakery where a Cantonese channel was on TV, and seeing everyone’s reactions to a Chinese music video that was playing.



No one was impressed, evidently.



Finally, we ended up in a gift shop because Katie wanted to look at something.  Among the inventory were: a pen/magnet shaped like a croissant, face masks with boy bands on the wrappers, photocopies of sticker sheets, gorgeous cutlery that we admired with too much enthusiasm, and a comb my roommate bought that operates like a switchblade.  She’s wanted one for ages, so it was a very exciting discovery.



All in all, we had a good time not doing anything related to school or sitting around and staring at the walls, which is probably what would have happened otherwise.  We’ve resolved to go back for dim sum during the week when some places are 20% off and also not packed to the rafters.

I’ve got a couple of recipes floating around that I’ll write up soon, but until then… I return to my research project and endless essays on religion and weapons of mass destruction.



More Errant Photos

30 May

From God knows when.  Let’s see what we’ve got this time.

A couple of weeks ago I started going back down to the lake more often.  I was there this weekend as well, when it was 90 degrees.  I guess I’ve been there more often in the winter and in the middle of the night, so I wasn’t expecting the swathes of people littering the sand at all.  I left quickly.

This was when it was still pretty quiet.  The weather was not too bad, but since Lake Michigan is, evidently, perpetually freezing, there weren’t many people out.  That day was a little on the stormy side, as well.

It’s probably my favorite kind of weather, because the light on just-a-bit-stormy days is generally stunning, and this day was no exception.

The movement of the waves absolutely enchanted me.  Particularly standing on this part of a cement pier, watching the water crest and break, the undercurrent pulling strands back into the lake like hair blowing back in the wind.

I’m fascinated by large bodies of water, and sort of terrified of them as well.  There’s just so much potential in them, you know, especially in the ocean.  I can be floating on the surface in a boat, large or small, thinking about how, just below, beyond sight, is an entire universe of creatures.  Fish at the surface, and maybe sharks.  Then, deeper down… who knows.  There’s just a macrocosm of life hidden in the shadows of the Earth’s oceans, living lives unimaginable to us.  We see what we fancy to be vaguely human behavior in cats, monkeys, sloths, even birds.  But deep in the ocean?  No one knows what’s down there.  Not everything, anyway.

Potentiality is a very scary subject, okay.  And on large bodies of water, it’s made physical, unlike the potentiality in our every day lives.  That can be scary, too, but it’s so abstract that it’s easy to forget about.

Ocean myths are very interesting, too.  And then there’s that song, Lull, which is oddly riveting.  I can play some of it on violin.  Whenever I hear it, it absolutely enchants me.

I write a lot about lakes and oceans, too.

Hmm…. This is more pervasive than I had initially thought.

You know, it’s like one of my favorite books, The Log of the SS the Mrs. Unguentine.  It’s super hard to find, and I acquired the last copy on Abe books, so that should tell you something.  It’s about a couple who live on a barge that sails the oceans.  They never disembark.  It’s largely about their marriage but… I don’t know, it’s an amazing book.  And it’s utterly hopeless to try and summarize it.  But if you can find a copy, read it.

I think maybe part of the fascination also is that the ocean is so lonely.  It’s like space.  And space and the ocean are so intimately tied together…

It’s appropriate, then, that I kept taking pictures of people from very far away, all alone on the shores.

Errant Photos Floating on My Desktop

22 May

I have a large backlog of photos I’ve been meaning to post here that have blended in with my desktop and my enormous collection of files thereon.  So I will finally post them.  What are they?  It’s a surprise!  (To you and to me…)

Socks.  I wear Happy Socks almost exclusively now, because they are super cool.  They’re a Swedish company.

My shoes with new laces, also Swedish.  These are Tretorn, as is my winter coat.  I am a big fan of Swedish clothing.  And music, actually.  Have you even heard Movits!?  Because man, you are missing out.  Movits! rocks my face off.  For real.

I love seeing hordes of bikers.  My heart always goes out to them in solidarity.

I love this, but I’m afraid I’m not sure where it’s from…

I biked into the Loop in the morning, around 8, to crash a political science conference at which my favorite writer was speaking on a panel.

Cluster of lights on Wacker.

I wish I’d had my telephoto lens for this shot, because it could have been truly stunning.  I need to carry that lens around more often…

I really love this picture.  It’s an angle/frame I’ve been using a lot more lately, but it never gets old for me.  Especially with this building.  Hot damn, I love this building.

In case you thought I was kidding about my love for this building.


On Armitage.  No idea what happened here.

You know what’s strange… I’ve been reading a lot of things in French today because I’m doing a paper on Guy Delisle’s travel comics and I have the French editions.  So I’ve been thinking half in French, half in English, and trying to write messages to people in French.  Very strange.  It was also making translating Latin today kind of difficult.

Conversely, I was trying to think of the word for “through” in French, and could only come up with the Latin.  My brain is a soup of language.

The building to which this belongs quite suddenly enchanted me on my way to violin one day.  It happens, you know.


Leaves.  Leaves, everywhere.

I took so many shots of this, trying to get it Just Right, and I don’t think I succeeded.

I love the lighting here.

Here, also.  It looked like the leaves were bleeding, which I found very romantic for some reason.

Sitting on my skateboard, talking to my dad.  Again, I love the lighting. I am easily wooed by lighting, what can I say.

Haha, I don’t know.  We found this immensely funny at the time.  That is Haley’s hand and sunglasses.  We are so.  Cool.

No. 59 – Photoset Challenge – The Milwaukee Edition!

22 May

I went to Milwaukee this weekend for a day trip, just to travel somewhere.  It was… nice.  Milwaukee just felt like a very large town, to me.  It was very nice, don’t get more wrong.  The lakefront is beautiful, and I really enjoyed the historic district by the lakefront.  Standing on the Holton-Kinnicinnick (how the fuck do you spell that) bridge looking back at the city, I could really see its history…  The new skyscrapers, the flatter parts next to the river, the industrial parks in the west.  It was a good trip.  Maybe it would have been more memorable if I had gone with someone, but I don’t really like to travel with people…

Let me tell you, I was totally thrilled by the architecture.  I mean, holy shit Milwaukee has some GORGEOUS architecture.  And I love to photograph architecture…

Like this?  What the fuck is this?  It is an amazing building.  I have so many photos of it from so many angles, and none of them quite captured the stunning detail.  This building is decadent okay.  Wow.

I really enjoyed this building.

Okay oh my God I’m listening to Asian hip hop right now, because someone whose blog I adore loves this guy, Jin.  Wow.  I don’t actually listen to hip hop right so this is just weird.  But I really liked on of his albums.  It’s just that I switched to another one, and it’s more traditional hip hop-y.  So.  Yeah.

Also I’m supposed to be reading about North Korea right now.



Do you know how much I’ve read about North Korea this quarter?  It is RIDICULOUS.

I liked the shadows here, and that weird grime trail coming out of his mouth.  It reminds me of this line in the Aeneid about this guy, Madness (or Fury or something?) and his bloody mouth as he sits in the temple of Janus with his hands bound behind his back with 100 knots.

Goddamn I love that book.

Portrait of a local.

Next to the PNC building.

Oh dude, he is rapping in Cantonese, okay that is cool.

So Milwaukee’s got it covered.  It’s got gorgeous classical architecture and kick-ass modern buildings, too.  And I loved them both very much.

Like this one?  Check this the fuck out, okay.  Check it.

The art museum.  I didn’t go in because I was too lazy and I have this aversion to museums when it’s my first time in a city.  For example, I refused to go to the Louvre when I was in Paris the first time.  The second time I went under duress, and I liked it.

Actually, I was first forced to go to the Musée d’Orsay on my second trip, where I first saw the impressionists.  Before Paris, I really didn’t like art museums.  I thought they were boring and a waste of time when I could be out in the city, living the culture, rather than looking at its revered relics.  I thought, why look at the carefully framed and plexiglassed past when you could go out and trip on the cobblestones and feel the stone bridges cool beneath your hands.

And then we went to the Musée d’Orsay and I’m not sure what happened.  I looked at the Impressionist paintings, at the ridges of paint from their brushes, at the crazy detail and emotional images they could make with daubs of paint, at the reverently uncareful brushstrokes… And I suppose I fell in love with them.  I suppose I fell in love with how much they loved their subjects, which were just ordinary folks and haystacks for fuck’s sake.  I fell in love how they painted them in a seemingly slapdash way that belief how much they treasured the quotidian and the mundane.

But yes, I did not go in, although the museum had an exhibit on French posters, like the ones by Toulouse-Lautrec.

The little fountain thing outside of the museum.  Did I post that photoset with the people dancing in the park here in Chicago?  I need to, if I didn’t, because it was beautiful.  But that was when I first photographed falling water.  And I think maybe it’s going to become a bit of an obsession.

A closer shot of the museum.

Folks before the lake.  I was sitting on a bench when I took this, and there I promptly fell asleep for about half an hour.  I don’t sleep much…

Continued into another post because damn I took a lot of pictures.

Photoset Challenge – No. 43: The I Drink A Ton of Coffee Edition

2 May

I just got back from biking.  I meant to get my bike from outside and move it into the campus corral, but then I took it out, down to the park and back, wending through random streets.

It’s amazingly foggy out, and the lights in the park and on the buildings are making the sky iridescent.  I love the fog at night because of how it catches rays of light and refracts them seemingly infinitely, spreading them out further and further until a huge radius glows, suspended in the sky by pale clouds.

It’s one am, don’t judge me.  I may or may not be making sense.

I was standing on the bridge over the pond in Lincoln Park when some security dude drives up behind me and stops his cart.  I didn’t turn around because what the hell, you can address me to get my attention instead of expecting it to be granted to you freely.  So he did finally say something that got me to turn around, and told me I had to leave, because it was after 11 and people in the park or on the beach after 11 get arrested for trespassing.  Well, fuck you very much.  I’ve been out in the park and on the beach past midnight countless times, and no one has ever cared.  But no, I see how it’s dangerous for people to be there.  They might fall in love with the quiet beauty of the park at night.  They might get stuck on that bridge, staring straight out at the city cloaked in fog, with so few lights struggling to burst through the mist.  They might be so captivated by the starbursting light of the lamps that they just never leave.

So I see why they’re so strict about that rule, of course.

Anyway, yesterday’s photos.

I have no idea what happened with the light here, but I like it.

The makings of a double shot espresso au lait.

A latte?

I don’t know.

It looks like a pretty sane amount of milk is going in there.

Until you get to here.

Fuel for midterms.

I wanted a Snickers, but all they had was Twix.  The injustice!

The reflection of the room I hijacked to use the whiteboards.  To outline papers or study for large tests (I tried the latter out today for the first time, actually), I like to make maps of text with arrows and lines connecting ideas.  So I’ve been sneaking into rooms at the new arts and letters building and using their wall-length whiteboards.

Under the El, walking back from… the library, probably.

I am going to go now, and finish my ramen, do some work, and read until I stop feeling randomly angry at nothing.  :(

Why do these things happen.  I ask you.


Photoset Challenge – No. 41

30 Apr

Day 41

Today is Day 43, actually.  The pictures are from Saturday when I worked the Boring Store and went to the Loop with Haley.

It’s grey out, as t has been for the past three days now.  I tried to check the weather on Dashboard, but of the five cities I have weather widgets for, only Paris is loading.  The weather is shitty there, but it always is.

I have a midterm in a little over an hour on ethics, and it should be easy enough to put me asleep.  I won’t sleep through it though, in case you were worried.  I’ll probably just write unnecessarily elaborate answers with lots of Batman references.

I hate whenever I have to say this, but yesterday was so uneventful it hurts.  I biked to the Loop for some books for my Firefly paper and was too exhausted to bike back, so I took the train.  Yes, really.  How sad is that?  I ran into a guy from my Latin class on the platform, which was weird… And that is the most eventful thing that happened.  I went back to campus and to the school library to write the rough draft of my Asian Foreign Policy paper.

And now it’s grey out, and I have a midterm, and I don’t expect to do much today, either, except study, study, study…  I feel like I did a lot more the past two quarters I was in Chicago.  Definitely last quarter around finals and into spring break.

But I’m going to Milwaukee soon, so that’s cool.

The Chicago River. When it rains, this street smells so, so nasty.

Doing inventory at the Boring Store.  Not pictured: the large costume fedora on my head.  I wear a different hat (we have so many hats!) every time I work there, and sometimes the nose-mustache glasses, too.

This was the highlight of our day – What our week had been leading up to – Wow Bao! It’s just a cheap Asian bun chain, but it’s awesome.  We hadn’t been, so we decided that the day would be Saturday.

Also, when I was waiting for this picture to upload, I checked Tumblr and found out Lisa Hannigan is doing a US tour.

Yes!  I will likely cross state lines and go to improbably lengths to make one of the shows!

How much, though.  How much do you want to bet she’ll play New York when I’m here, and here when I’m in New York.  How.  Much.


Spicy Mongolian Beef Bao.

Ha, what.  Apparently this is a local thing?  As in, people seriously do this here?

I mean.

Okay, sure.

Ahahaha, what is a pokie.  What.  What is going on here.

We went into a gourmet grocery store in Water Tower Place (which was like Dean and Deluca) and admired/were puzzled by the chocolate display.

Lego store!  Imagining being the person who got to build the displays!  What a cool job!

I miss my Legos.  I had to leave them at home, but this summer I will build more things.  Things other than cubist bacon and the logos of major operating systems, which is what I did last summer.

This person is Haley and this painting is made of Legos.

(It just started raining.  Man, even if I wasn’t wearing very tall heels, there’s no way I could skateboard…)

See, Legos!

When we were walking back down Michigan Ave., I saw an Avengers display in the Disney store across the street and ran to it.  We looked in the window before deciding, yeah we should probably go in.  And that is where we found these masks.

How cool are these?

So cool!

That’s how cool.

Some art I had never seen before.

I got a Snickers Ice Box Pie from Magnolia.  And let me tell, this pie was almost the end of me.  It’s not that big of a slice, but damn that thing was rich.

The last bite!  It took forever to eat the last three bites.  Haley was also almost defeated by her peanut butter and jelly cupcake, and we pressured each other into finishing.  I suppose it wasn’t quite fair, because she really didn’t want the last bite (it was only a sliver!), and neither did I, but she’s seen me eat pancakes.

I refuse to be defeated by good food, okay.  And yes, I hate myself for a little bit afterwards, but the ultimate triumph of demolishing a stack of pancakes, a pie, or a cake, is SO WORTH IT.

And then there was this dude, who spent such a long time meticulously photographing all the food on his table.  He picked up that cupcake and took some pictures, put his phone down, and peeled the wrapper off the side.  Ostensibly to eat it, right?

But then he picked up the phone again and posed the cupcake just so…

I do the same thing, so I’m certainly not judging him, but it’s really funny to see this kind of thing from an outsider’s perspective.  Because whenever I get food, no matter where I am, I start prodding it into just the right light, crouching almost under the table to get the angle I want, and after a few minutes of this, finally start to actually eat.

Well, I think the rain has stopped.  I’ll bring an umbrella anyway.  And definitely my pens, because I never remember to bring pens with me anywhere these days.

Some of my Latin translations are in colored pencil.  Sad but true.

Photoset Challenge – 38 & 39

28 Apr

Welcome to midterms weeks!  I have three papers!  One of them has ridiculously high standards!  Did I mention the presentation and the three exams!  Thirty-five lines of Latin (shut up, that’s more than that sounds like)!  Life is awesome!

It’s really not that bad.  It’s all manageable.  Finals on the other hand.  Finals.

Let’s not speak of these things.

Days 38 & 39

Combined set because they’re pretty uneventful.

Our quad.  It’s pretty nice.  Especially in when it’s green.  Really, only when it’s green.  And snowy!  Man, our campus is quite lovely in the snow.

These are my friends.  (This is turning into show and tell.  Whatever.)  Haley was riding Paulina’s skateboard while I was on the phone with my dad.  We were about to get dinner, but I had to talk about study abroad with my dad.  Had to.  Couldn’t wait.  Because I am so excited, and I had new information, and I HAD to keep trying to convince him to let me go.

It’s a war of attrition.

(My advisor said that, and it is accurate.)

I really want to take more portraits.  I see a lot of them that I love online, and they’re something I’ve never really done.  I’m pretty shy about it, since it means asking someone to just stand there and stare at you.  I feel a little awkward shooting my friends all the time in candid shots as it is.  But it’s worth it.  Because check out that lighting.  Also, Haley lurking in the backgrounds.  The sunglasses really add to her expression right there.

Whenever Paulina falls off her skateboard, she does a crazy dance until she gets back on to take away from the awkwardness and potential embarrassment.  She fell off twice in the space of a minute right before I took this, near the front of the doors to the building that you can’t see on the left.  So she rocked out for a bit, shuffling back to the board, jumping on, and kicking off again.  The people standing by the doors were greatly amused.

I’m only wearing one shoe because when I wear heels (almost always) I take off the left one so I have a better center of balance.  Hence the toeless tights thing going on here.

I feel like I should come with a disclaimer that people have to sign that says they’re okay with their picture being taken and showing up on the internet.

I had to brake kind of suddenly on my bike, and I kind of jammed my thumb against the handle.  It hurts.  This bike is very harmful, unfortunately, because I tend to jam my ankles against the peddles, which are made of metal…  I have a scrape on the top of my foot, oddly, from one of the peddles, and this raw spot near my hip from hitting the handlebars when I dismounted today.


Lard Nhar for one of the eight hour library sessions.  Yes, one of. Because they happened every day from Sunday to Thursday.  The library is open until 2 am during midterms and 24 hours during finals.


Will be great.

I unfortunately don’t have a sleeping bag here, but I do have a fleece Spiderman blanket.

One of the group study rooms at the library.

Eraser?  What?

If you haven’t seen The Social Network, you should probably do that.  I need to re-watch it, seriously, because that movie is one of my favorites.  I love origin stories of tech companies. I don’t know why. It’s probably my favorite genre.

I’ve been listening to the score a lot when I work because it’s really beautiful and instrumental, and it’s very good music to focus to.  I guess the movie is kind of sad/inspiring, since Facebook really rose up out of nothing, just the sheer brilliance of its creators, and so much was lost in the process.

I don’t know why I started thinking about that.  Someday I’m going to do a post of my favorite movies.  Someday…

These are my notes for my Asian Foreign Policy research paper.  I started outlining things like this last quarter, and I really like it.  It’s usually way neater…  Yesterday I appropriated a classroom in the new Arts and Letters Hall and used the wall-length whiteboard to outline my ethical analysis paper on Firefly.

I will remember to keep posting things soon probably.