March 27, 2009

Magnolia Tree

Conceptual art by Sebastián Errázuriz, a Chilean artist raised in London.

I love the way he juxtaposes everyday objects in a way that creates an uncomplicated yet special piece of art. A yellow smiley face adapted from the popular LEGO man adorns a sleek motorcycle helmet, almost as if presented in a completely serious product advertisement. The plastic eyes on the teddy bear jacket may be a bit creepy, but the idea is lighthearted, fun, and surely unique.

Errazuriz has also undertaken urban art projects that carry more meaningful themes, ones with ethical and political significance:

A cow was saved from a slaughterhouse and now lives atop a 10-story building in Chile.

A magnolia tree symbolic of peace was planted in the center of Chile's National Stadium, the place where dictator Augusto Pinochet tortured prisoners a few decades ago. The field was opened temporarily as a park, and "a cathartic soccer match was played before 15,000 people, with the tree in the middle as the closure of the piece."

I'm currently scrambling to find matching socks, packing my toothbrush, and stuffing my suitcase in preparation for a trip to Lake Tahoe, for which I am already an hour late. If I manage to get internet connection at the hotel, I'll be making some hasty posts between skiing and dining. If not, well, I'll return in four days.

Enjoy your SPRING BREAK!!

March 26, 2009

The Grand Canyon State

Being a Harker student, I traveled to Arizona with my class for the 7th grade trip, where we rode a bus for hours through desolate stretches of desert, hiked for miles between columns of red rock, and endured blazing sun and swirling dust. This arid state also happens to be the home of my birthplace. Yes, I lived the first year of my life in a place where 100 degree weather was considered moderate, where javelinas and jackrabbits ran freely around the neighborhood, and where cacti lined the walkway to every door on the street.

Sure, the climate is harsh, but I still love this place. In fact, I associate c
ountless fond memories with the school trip. We told scary stories as we rattled along an incredibly bumpy dirt road on a Jeep tour. We saw the one and only McDonald's with turquoise arches, designed to complement the landscape of Sedona. We made brief pit stops at western-style diners where we wore feather headdresses and reenacted historic battles. All this and several guided tours through breathtakingly magnificent national parks. I remember this experience as one of the highlights of middle school-- as educational as it was exciting, it was truly a memorable one.

The hike through Bryce Canyon left me speechless with wonder (and exhaustion)

Students inch down a hill of red rock on all fours in Monument Valley

Horseshoe Bend, Colorado River via James Neeley's flickr photostream

The view of Horseshoe Bend from our raft

March 25, 2009


These simplistic word-equations examine everyday objects and ideas with a realistic perspective. Humorous equations with sardonic undertones, Craig Damrauer's New Math is simply awesome.

...Strangely thought-provoking and insightful "formulas for life".

Read more here.


March 24, 2009

Fragrant Daffodils

Yesterday, I cut about 20 stems of these lovely flowers from my backyard and arranged them in a crystal vase. After some intense Google-ing I learned flowers of this variety are called geranium tazetta daffodils.

Placing the bouquet on my desk was probably not a great idea, for the eye-catching spots of color and sweet, somnolent aroma are quite the distraction from homework.


March 23, 2009

New Frontiers

There were beautiful arrangements of scarlet tulips upstairs in the Atrium.

During the first half of the symposium, guests studied poster presentations by Harker students as well as by research laboratories and renowned companies in the biotechnology industry. In the upper center of the photo you can kind of see the amazing muscle photos taken by Harker journalists. I loved the decorations-- vines and flowers twisted and sculpted into vertical segments of DNA, seated upon antiqued columns. Later, I attended a fun CSI:Harker workshop where we experienced hands-on forensic DNA profiling.

Lunch was great, and free too! (since I volunteered to man the registration desk and fold DNA origami)

Here's an extremely pathetic photo of the second keynote address, where Dr. Andy Chan, the senior vice president of Genentech, spoke about research in immunology and rheumatology. He covered not only the methodology of developing new, targeted drugs, but also the application of different fields of science in biotechnology. I admit that I did not grasp every concept he presented, but his speech was highly informative and really piqued my interest in the study of medicine.

He closed with some inspirational words of advice,
ideas that can be applied to goals much broader than just scientific research:
  1. Do what excites you.
  2. Immerse youself in your work.
  3. Do it well, rigorously, and creatively.

March 20, 2009

Day and Night

Delicate flowers bloom on the donut peach tree in my backyard, the official mark of the start of spring:
(All taken with my meager point-and-shoot Sony Cybershot. Click for full-sized photos.)

Just before sunset, slanted rays pass over the rooftop, casting intricate shadows across the petals.

The dainty flowers set against a seemingly two-dimensional dusk sky.

Within weeks this lovely tree will shed its petals to make way for fuzzy little peaches.

Happy spring!

March 19, 2009


Fresh, organic produce via Denis Vrubleski's flickr photostream

Everyone has heard of the
recent recall of salmonella-tainted peanuts. After thorough investigation, officials have found "rodent infestation, mold, and bird droppings" at peanut plants, in addition to bacterial contamination. And these plants had federal organic certification too. What people don't know is that the "USDA organic" label found on overpriced food items does not necessarily indicate food safety; according to my dictionary widget, organic just means "produced without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or other artificial agents." An inspector at the Texas plant that produced tainted peanuts had inadvertently allowed the plant to keep the "organic" label on its food even though it did not even have a state health certificate.

Mmmm peaches (whimsy's flickr photostream)

So why choose organic?

Although the outbreak has caused many to question the integrity of organic food, this one incident should not spur your mistrust. Facts don't lie: organic foods have been found to be richer in nutrients and better for the environment. For example, higher levels of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and polyphenols (natural antioxidants) are among the many health benefits. The absence of potentially toxic fertilizers and pesticides also means less pollution done to the environment. As long as the safety and quality are certified, organic is the way to go. So the next time you bite into a succulent, delicious, organic white peach, take pride in the fact that you are getting 8% more vitamin C than that in a non-organic peach.


March 17, 2009

Almost Spring

Something about photographing flowers really appeals to me. A few days ago, I was at Home Depot buying light bulbs when I began to gravitate towards the pretty flowers...

The rest are from my backyard:

I'm definitely more of a winter person-- flowers, iced lattes, and summer vacation are pretty much the only three blessings that come with warm weather.


March 16, 2009

Skin Deep

Botulinum toxin, one of the most toxic proteins in existence, is better known in the cosmetic world as Botox. A neurotoxin produced by a bacterium, Botulinum toxins have a variety of medical uses, mostly treating muscle spasms. Since 2002, this lethal toxin has been used in minute doses to relax facial muscles, resulting in the softening of wrinkles. Although it is the most commonly performed cosmetic procedure, it does come with one unwelcome byproduct: the inability to make facial expressions.

Recent studies have shown that Botox treatments may also come with psychological ramifications. Not being able to show negative emotion in response to unpleasant things leads to viewing the world as a more negative place. Also, smiling has also been proven to boost mood and self-esteem, and lower stress. Because it is such a simple procedure, many women (and men?) don't think twice before scheduling an appointment with a cosmetic surgeon. Fortunately, the recent economic situation has encouraged people to reassess; unnecessary cosmetic procedures come second to more basic needs. After all, why get Botox when not being able to laugh or flash a mere smile to a friend is proven to cause feelings hatred towards the world?


March 13, 2009


Spring has arrived in my backyard in the form of budding leaves, blooming daffodils, and these little red insects. At this time every year, ladybugs begin appearing throughout the vegetable garden, their predatory feeding habits sweeping it clean of pesky aphids. Oh how I wish my camera had more powerful macro functions.

I played around with Picnik, my favorite [free] online photo editing application, and made my mediocre photos look somewhat acceptable. Picnik offers a wide array of functions, ranging from the basics (auto-fix, crop, sharpen, etc.) to fancier options (heat map, night vision, vignette, neon, etc.) to text/frame/sticker add-ons. Picnik's digital cross processing (used in photos 1 and 3), lends a glowy, sunlit effect to photos-- a little bit hazy like a vintage photo, but without washed-out colors. As for a friendly user interface, Picnik also displays the cutest messages while loading: warming breeze, fluffing clouds, coloring flowers, growing grass...
Although it may not be very professional, I highly recommend this application for any basic photo editing endeavors.

March 12, 2009

I've always wanted to learn how to knit


Tree Cozy by Carol Hummel, part of an exhibition called Sculpture in the Heights in Cleveland, Ohio.
I've been so enchanted by these random art exhibitions I've been discovering recently!

It's a tree sweater to keep the tree warm and toasty during the frigid months! The eye-catching colors complement the bleak, wintry sky as well as the delicate spring foliage so perfectly. With the warm weather we've been getting recently, these photos show a transition to sunnier days.

By the way, does anyone remember The Lorax by Dr. Seuss (with those Thneeds knit from the fluffy tufts of Truffula Tree leaves)?


March 11, 2009

La Machine

François Delarozière's La Princesse via Dune_UK's flickr photostream

Created by French engineering mastermind François Delarozière and his production company La Machine, this 37-ton, steel-and-poplar-wood spider traveled through Liverpool, England as a public art installation. This arachnid-like apparatus, named La Princesse, is so outlandish that it could easily be mistaken for an alien invader from War of the Worlds. Locals and tourists alike gawked at the spectacular (but mildy creepy) masterpiece of art and engineering.

The Sultan's Elephant via Simon Crubellier's flickr photostream

A few years ago, La Machine also created a marionette girl and a magnificent mechanical elephant as part of a street show for the Royal de Luxe theater company. Like an intricately decorated wooden toy out of a giant toy box, the elephant entertained thousands of spectators in the streets of London.

For some reason, I find these mechanical animals really fascinating. Despite the fact that they are artificial, inanimate objects, they seem to exude a sense of mystery that has the power to whisk us far away from reality, to a land of fantasy.. I wonder if we'll ever see one of these roaming the streets of San Francisco. Someday maybe.

Now for a dash of reality, I must return to the mountain of homework awaiting me.

March 10, 2009

A Proper Introduction

In my first post, it seems I jumped straight to the story of the day and skipped an intro!

Over the past weekend, I had the hardest time devising a plan for this journalism blog project. I fretted endlessly, trying to decide on a focal theme to write about every day for a month. It was not that I had a shortage of ideas, I just could not choose
one topic. I love fashion, but my audience of journalism classmates wouldn't be interested. Writing a whole month's worth of healthy living tips would surely be a drag. Food seemed like a practical choice, except for the fact that all of my culinary adventures have ended in absolute failure disaster. So, Monday night I realized that it would be impossible for me to settle for one subject; instead of fencing myself in, I'll be exploring all kinds of stories on this blog. Expect to read about everything from hard-hitting news to personal anecdotes, contemporary art to deep-sea creatures... Enjoy!


March 9, 2009

PETA strikes at Paris Fashion Week

Carine Roitfeld in a fur coat via

Today, while perusing a fashion blog, I discovered this article regarding PETA's latest celebrity victim. Clamorous protesters gathered outside a show and hurled eggs at fur-wearing editors. Among those caught in the clash was Carine Roitfeld, the high-profile editrix-in-chief of French Vogue. Amidst the furor, someone tore the sleeve off her designer gown while trying to get at her goat-fur coat.

PETA has confronted several other famous people in the past. Just months ago, someone dumped an entire sack of flour on Lindsay Lohan for sporting a fur coat in Paris. Madonna and Paris Hilton have also been targeted for their cold-hearted clothing choices.

Now, how justified are PETA's proactive shows of disapproval for fur?
Of course the organization hopes to promote ethical treatment of animals, but celebrity attacks are extreme. What good does it do, ruining coats worth thousands of dollars? Paris Hilton could easily purchase another. As for raising awareness? A small dose of public humiliation won't change the minds of fur-loving celebs. Despite the good intentions of PETA, it is highly unlikely that a flour-bomb ambush will change anyone's opinion. After the Fashion Week incident, Roitfeld maintained her poised nonchalance and simply declared,
"I am a fashion martyr now."