Improv Everywhere

Ever since flashmobs came about, I love organized just-for-fun activities that bring strangers together.  If I ever live in New York City, I would participate in every event hosted by Improv Everywhere to incite curiosity, intrigue, confusion, shock, and laughter from the public.

Improv Everywhere was started in 2001 by Charlie Todd, and the group has executed more than 100 performances -anything from the most recent prank of an impromptu formal dinner and concert in the park to one of the original projects of no-pants day in the metro.

Below is Charlie Todd’s TED presentation:

Go to their blog to sit back and watch this group’s performances.  It will surely put a smile on your face..

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The Magical Power of Glasses

I have had glasses since 5th grade.  Back then, I hated having to wear them, so I only wore them in class to see the blackboard.  Eventually, my vision just got worse and I didn’t really have a choice but wear them or I would be ignoring my friends’ waves of hello.  At the elementary school age,   glasses wearers are a minority.  I was too self-conscious about epitomizing the Asian stereotype of academic nerdiness.

I finally got contact lenses in high school because I argued to my parents that running 5k cross-country meets with my glasses in my hand in case a stretch of the course enters the forest with roots, rocks, and other tripping hazards was not the best.  (Ok, I managed fine without using my glasses at all, but hey, it worked).   Having rid of glasses, I felt like I underwent  this drastic transformation.   After that I lived in contact lenses for years that my glasses prescription became obsolete.

Now, my attachment to contacts has waned.  I don’t know what changed.  Maybe it was the indifference as to whether the boys in my class thought I was cute or the self-confidence of diverging from the current fashion trend I developed over time.  I actually really wanted glasses, so I got them in January.

I love wearing my glasses.  It’s funny because I have some friends who wear fake glasses for the sake of wearing glasses.  I don’t know whether to feel pride in the fact that the glasses actually help me see better or disbelief that they are jealous of me being pretty much blind.

Need proof that glasses are now the cool way to see?

Google’s Project Glass is taking glasses to a new level that only seems possible in the science fiction realm – an experience called “augmented reality.”  What is augmented reality?  Unlike virtual reality in which one’s perception of the world is replaced by an artificial, computer-generated one, augmented reality is when technology functions to enhance one’s perception of current reality.  Take a look at the video below and learn more about augmented realityin this article by howstuffworks.com.

And you thought Benjamin Franklin’s bifocals or photochromic/transition lenses were about as advanced as glasses would get, huh?

When Holi and a 5k combine….The Color Run

Spring is here. The flowers are blooming. The trees are sprouting new leaves.  The people are emerging from hibernation to bike and run outside

For all those wish for more excitement while running in the city….join The Color Run!!!  For this race, runners must wear a white shirt at the start.  At each kilometer mark, runners are doused with powder of a different color (1k is yellow, 2k is blue, 3k is green, 4k is pink) until the 5k mark where runners reach the “Color Extravaganza.”

 

 

The colors and joy surrounding this 5k is very reminiscent of Holi, the Hindu religious holiday celebrated during the last full moon of the lunar month Phalguna (late February or early March).  Originally, Holi was a festival that commemorated good harvests and the fertile land.  Hindus believe it is a time of enjoying spring’s abundant colors and saying farewell to winter.  Although the religious aspect is highly emphasized, Holi also commemorates events present in Hindu mythology.  During this event, participants hold a bonfire, throw colored powder at each other, and celebrate wildly. This period lasting about two days is also a time when social boundaries are relieved and people of all castes, gender, age, and socioeconomic status come together to enjoy each other’s presence as they celebrate the festival of new beginning.

I’ll be venturing up to Philadelphia on July 8th to run in this colorful event with a couple of friends for an informal high school cross country team reunion. Let me know if you’re going to be there!

Music Man Murray

Let’s put one thing out there.  I love happy old people.  I find them so endearing.  However, I also develop an incredible reverence for them because of the abundance of knowledge, stories, and the unbeknownst wisdom they have and reveal reflecting on the decades of life they have experienced.  For anyone, there’s nothing more I enjoy than to sit and listen to stories about their lives.  With the elderly, though, I sense vigor in the conversation -no matter the mood elicited by the topic or the triviality.  Sitting across from my senior companions, I find myself impressed by every word and captivated by the raise of the eyebrows, widening or squint of the eyes, manipulation of voice to mimic people or noises, and fervent hand gestures.  Watching the theatrics, I cannot help but imagine myself at their age and how I would go search my memories for something significant.  (Note to self: live more so I can be great entertainment for curious attentive youth).  

While catching up on some news, I came across this NPR article about Murray Gershenz, and I had to share it.

Murray Gershenz is an 89-year-old man going on 90 in May.   What makes him special?  He is a great lover of music.  Since 1962, he has been operating Music Man Murray in Los Angeles to share his collection of roughly 250,000 records, tapes, and memorabilia.  Each item there is his precious treasure.

“I love this place. If I had nothing else to do, I would just be here and listen to records all the time.”

The shop is Murray’s love, and he does odd side jobs to earn enough just to keep it open. However, both father and his son Irv realize that that their time together is becoming increasingly finite.  Irv hopes that someone will buy the store and continue his father’s legacy.  Murray is skeptical of this scenario and hopes a university will add it to their library.  Murray notes that if there are no buyers, his records will most likely end up in the trash.  The total value of his collection is appraised between $3 million and $4 million.  No buyers yet.

In the documentary, Murray reflects on his life with a sense of satisfaction -an ideal for all.

“I’ve done it. I mean, I don’t know how to say it, but when I started this thing in the first few years, I wondered if I could do it. And then for a while I was doing it. And now I’ve done it…Why not try to give it to someone who will appreciate it and take care of it.  I’m not the only person who really appreciates this.”

The implicit message to take from Murray: Make dreams reality. Do what you love.  Share your love with the world.

11 Ways to Make Running More Bearable

Like a nightmare synopsis for a teenage chick flick, I started my freshman year of high school as the “new girl.”  No lie.  It was pretty horrible – especially at lunch on the first day when I am scouring through the entire cafeteria for a familiar face in order to assimilate into the social caste system.  Luckily, I was saved from the new kids table for two by a girl in my world history class whose circle of friends became mine.  With my core group of friends established, I guess I wanted to expand my social circle a bit and interact more with the other students in the school.

I joined the cross-country team on a whim mid-season.  Even at the time I joined, I didn’t even really know what cross-country was.  I was familiar with the phrase because one of my sister’s friends  had been on the team while she was in high school.  Ironically, I definitely did not realize the amount of running it involved.

Even though I was athletic, I had not run more than the occasional mile for fitness tests in PE class.  On the first day when the coach announced that today would be an “easy day” of 3 miles, I died, to say the least.  As opposed to the midwest or the coast, there are no flat stretches of roads in southwest Virginia, only hills.  So, 3 miles for a girl from suburban California, was unthinkable.

One girl on the team became (or was assigned, as I later I found out) my running buddy that day, and we started off on the jog at the back to the group.  As I watched the girls, like ducklings, follow the coach’s tall lanky figure and disappear into the distance within the first mile, I instantly had awe for everyone on the team…and self-hate for why I had decided to do this.

After the first day of my practice, I remember that I told my parents I wanted to quit.  Despite my anguish and dread, I ended up returning to practice because of my running buddy, with whom I exchanged an earnest “see you tomorrow.”  I waited in the cafeteria watching the buses load up and depart (including mine), which meant I had no choice but to go to my second day of practice or spend the next 3 hours sitting at school.

Thank goodness that track and cross-country were the only sports teams without try-outs because I certainly wouldn’t have made the cut!  Gradually, within the season, I improved to even run on the varsity team next year!  Whatever the initial motivation was, thank you, 14-year-old self.

Now a ghastly 10 years since I got my start, I still love running and do so outside rather regularly -even in the winter.  Yes, I am one of those crazies waddling and tip-toeing carefully to avoid patches of ice.  Why am I not normal and going to the gym?  Simple.  I just hate everything about it.  There are so many mirrors. Everyone is watching you.  The air always feels so musty.  Much like the 1-3-5 urinal rule for guys, it’s oddly uncomfortable when someone uses the machine right next to you (and goes much faster).  Plus, I simply cannot run on a treadmill or a track with no change in scenery to confirm that you’ve actually been moving.

As opposed to the countryside of Virginia, running outdoors in the city is a challenge -even in the other three seasons.  Depending on the hour, there are crowds of people claiming the sidewalk as their own.  I often feel like the one fish in the school going the opposite direction in the aquarium tank.

From sciecephotogallery.com

Regardless of where I am running, the bigger problem I encounter is that I end my runs early not necessarily because I am tired but rather because I am bored.  Through my running experience, I’ve found a few ways to help me work on my endurance…including a few games to play in my head (I am a huge dork!).

11 Things I Have Tried and Vouch For or Imagine Would Be Effective to Make Running a Bit More Entertaining: (Zoolander’s school, anyone?)

1. Run with music

This is an obvious one.  I have an iPod, but I also like to be aware of my surroundings.  Plus, have you ever paid attention to how loud you have your iPod while running when you step into your house?  I already have gone to too many concerts.  I save my eardrums from the decibels until I really want to destroy my hearing. 

2. Run with a friend

Another obvious one. (I promise there are more creative ways below. Just keep reading).  Oftentimes, though, especially for busy DC-ers, coordinating schedules is a challenge.  I’m sure everyone can relate to this.

3. Race buses

This is best for your ego if done in rush hour traffic.  Plus, people on the bus will be amazed.

4. Find another runner and stalk them until you pass them or find another runner to stalk.

My personal favorite! I’m excited to play it now that people who went to the gym in the winter are coming back outside.  FYI- For my stalking victim:  If you get a feeling that the runner behind you is following you and you run in a circle to test your theory, don’t freak out if the runner is playing this game.  Just let him/her pass you. HOWEVER, if they’re not….. shoot….good luck.

5. Run only on busy roads with lots of cars

….because I don’t ever want to stop in front of them and give away the fact that I’m actually tired! Duck into an alley way if you must!

6. Do a hash.

I’ve never done it.  Too low of a tolerance.  Plus, the thought of running on a stomach full of bubbly beer while everyone taunts you in the beginning for being a (hash) virgin does not sound like a great time.  My friends have done several and love it.

7. Don’t plan a route. Let it choose itself.

At every intersection, run in the direction that has a green light.

8. Don’t register for a race and run with the crowd.

I ran on the sidewalk alongside marathoners for 7 miles. People stared at me trying to figure out whether they should report me for cheating when I strayed from the crowd.

Also, waking up early and standing among hundreds of people, you can get the same adrenaline rush from races without paying $30+ for a T-shirt.  You can actually buy a really fancy T-shirt with the money you saved for a memorabilia one. Or a self-congratulatory brunch.

P.S. To DC-ers, There are tons of weekly runs with the Capital Striders meetup group. Check them out!

9. Be a broken record

Like spelling the word banana, I would start singing a tune subconsciously to create a steady breathing rhythm but not actually pay attention to verses.  Next thing I know, I find myself finishing a 30 minute run having sung the tune on repeat.  I used to do this with Jimmy Eat World’s The Middle (remember that?) during cross country meets since I never bothered to learn the words of the verses.

10. Run with your pet dog

I can only imagine what this is like. I have been deprived of a childhood and never had a pet. Sigh…..

Ok, I’m 25.  I should stop blaming my parents.  I should get my own dog if I wanted.

11. Run with a destination in mind

Sometimes, I raced to return video rentals and drop off mail at the post office to avoid late fees and before it closed for the weekend respectively.   Be prepared for some looks though.  I guess it’s unusual to see people running with a book in their hands.

Have any other ways to make running more enjoyable? Let me know!

Our long and arduous path to repair the Earth

Aside

A great read to follow up my thoughts on Earth Day is Edward Norton’s reflection on climate change.

This issue involves an “urgency of now.”

“We have no time to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.”

-Martin Luther King

It is a daunting task but we have no choice.  We must take responsibility and embark on a collaborative journey to repair our home and reinvent a lifestyle harmonious to all life and resources of the planet.

Breakfast potato!!!

This past Sunday in the northeastern corner of the US was rain all day long.  Boo.  Happy Earth Day and all, but I had plans to build a garden!

Maybe it’s just me, but rain makes me tired.  I already slept a miraculous whole 12 hours, so I needed to do something to not waste an entire day.

Solution??? Cooking!!!

Luckily, I just made a trip to the grocery store so I had several ingredients at hand…..which included the sack of red potatoes from a brunch that never happened.

I referred to this basic recipe for breakfast potatoes as a guideline.  Below are the specifics on what I did:

  1. Wash and boil 5 small/medium unpeeled red potatoes for about 25 minutes until somewhat soft enough for you to put a skewer/fork/knife through it.
  2. Cut the potatoes into cube-like pieces.
  3. Slice 1 medium onion and cook in skillet with a little bit of oil.
  4. Add tumeric, pepper, salt and Baron’s Savoury Secrets San Francisco Seasoning #62 (a mixture including paprika, ginger, cardamom) to the onions, but do not mix.
  5. Pile on potatoes in the skillet and stir.  Add more spices to taste.
  6. Add some fresh spinach leaves to the mix right before you turn off the heat.
One thing I do wish I had was some sausage/tofu-sausage item.

Yay for rainy Sunday productivity! Enjoy!

Happy (Unofficial) Earth Day!

Ok, Earth Day is not until tomorrow (the 22nd).

Image from NASA

BUT, in reality, EVERY DAY SHOULD BE EARTH DAY!!

Since I started working at an ecology non-profit, I have learned many details in evidence of climate change that go beyond global warming and carbon dioxide particles in the atmosphere.  If we continue to live as we are and do not act now to stop our harmful routines, the planet will surely accelerate its progress towards a projection of dire Darwinian competition and struggle for survival.

In order to see change, leaders need to make the environment their top priority.  However, the lack of unified action, including a failure to reach an agreement for a universal plan at the 2009 UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, shows that leaders either refuse to acknowledge the issue or are preoccupied by politics, national security, and other legislative issues.  As Yann Arthus-Bertrand stated in his TED lecture that “we don’t want to believe what we know,” perhaps leaders are aware but secretly house a sense of helplessness or being overwhelmed by the sheer immensity of the problem.  Regardless, climate change is real and is happening whether we observe or experience drastic change from yesterday and today.  Every moment of inaction is only allowing the problem to grow bigger.  

However, the solution is not all dependent on our world leaders and political officials. Stewardship of each individual, above all, is of utmost importance.  We, the people, have power in expressing issues that are of importance to us.  Through the public emphasis of concern over climate change, the movement may influence leaders to seek globally collaborative efforts and start addressing this issue that effects all life on the planet and aspects of society as we know it.

Activism and advocacy on the individual level can be done through protests and campaigns on the more formal end of the spectrum.  Alternatively, an easier approach is to reflect on the effects our actions have on the environment and do our part to minimize your negative impact!  (You know…Reduce, reuse, and recycle; turn off lights when not in use; use public transportation; etc)   Also, educate ourselves more in the ecological status of the world, and we will be alarmed by the urgency of the matter that is downplayed in society.   Then, we can educate our friends about climate change by including it as a topic in conversations.  The more people know about climate change, the more of a presence the topic has in the mind of the public as a collective whole.

So make Earth Day the beginning of our more environmentally conscious selves.  To get started, use this map to find an Earth Day event or volunteer project near you!

Song 1 -an immersive music experience in DC

Gallery

This gallery contains 4 photos.

Well, after an art filled weekend, I might as well continue the theme.  I promise I will get back to posting about recipes, photos, and thoughts (or my friend like to call them, brain barf). On March 22nd, my roommate … Continue reading