Beginning of Spring

Each morning, a charming California Towhee, or so I believe, graces the branches just outside of our dining room window. It doesn’t stay long, often just a few seconds. Other times, a hummingbird would alight a quiet twig and hurriedly grooms itself. However, this morning, a pair of squirrels turned our home and the nearby tree into their racetrack, filling the air with their lively ruckus. 

Over the last two weeks, the air started to warm up, and birds began to chirp. It might be hard to notice during the rainy days, but the changes are certainly here. It’s said that in certain regions of China, Minor Cold beats Major Cold at its own frosty game. It definitely feels that way here as well. 

The beginning is in full swing, at least for work and otherwise regular life. My inner self however, senses the closure of another alternate timeline as 立春 (Beginning of Spring) and 春節 (Spring Festival) approach. 

I feel like I finally have some mental space this year to live this occasion. It takes proactive effort to be in touch with my culture without being in a larger collective. It’s an intentional departure from my immediate surroundings, a recognition that my narrative doesn’t align with the mainstream.

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New York, 2023

From the moment we landed, I felt a jarring disconnect, a clear mismatch in my gut. I was overwhelmed, irritated, and disheartened by the disrepair of everything. The grime and cacophony, once merely backdrop, have now taken centerstage, coloring every sight and experience. As if to epitomize the experience, my LIRR train constantly lost power mid-air like some sort of dystopian horror scene, plunging us into fleeting pockets of an alternate reality. I questioned myself: have I always felt this way? 

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小寒 (Minor Cold) musings

The view outside my window is beautiful. Slanted sunlight bathes the day in a perpetual golden hour, infusing the crisp, crystal-clear air with a stillness that seems almost frozen in time. The evergreen trees stand strong with their lush foliage, while their more delicate kin bare weather-worn branches and twigs, gesturing with a graceful fractal dance. Hints of grapefruit orange and pink cling stubbornly to memories of autumn, adorning this landscape with the much needed splashes of color.

Yet my body knows better than to be seduced by that beauty. It is really cold outside.

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Follow the objects

I love the convenience and possibilities of digital crafts. But I miss the tactile sensation. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I reflected on my reaction. A part of my essay: Two and a half years of film photography mentioned:

For the first time, I felt what “loving the process” truly means. It was disconcerting first. How could I be spending so much time on something without a goal of making something out of it? Is that a useful way to spend my time?

What clicked for me was a suggestion by Herbert Lui and Rachel Jepsen’s short book: Creative Doing:

consider the objects that you love. If you’ve always loved light fixtures, you can choose an operation related to industrial design. If you like skillets, kitchen knives, and cookbooks, you can try an operation related to the culinary arts

Contrary to the exercise of finding what you’re passionate about through the objects you love, for years, I dismissed my fascination with tools. I’d remind myself: the tools don’t create art, the artist does.

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To somewhere

This year has been a whirlwind, to say the least. While unfinished work remains, I wonder if “done” or “back to normal” are ever truly attainable. But that’s okay; life is, after all, a never-ending journey of change. As these thoughts surfaced, my GPS led me to a ramp that felt entirely unfamiliar. 

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Phin Cafe

Tucked away in a shaded nook of a typical suburban shopping center in South San Jose, Phin Cafe is an oasis of beautifully crafted Vietnamese drinks with a lo-fi atmosphere. The interior, themed with walnut wood and concrete, is equipped with outlets, tables, and bright natural and overhead lighting, perfect for a comfortable work session in a cozy space.

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The problem with note-taking

Most note-taking apps use a hierarchical structure: folders and notes. This mirrors how we’re taught to take notes, and how most books are structured, with parts, chapters, and sections. Growing up, I never questioned this taxonomy.

Yet, I always struggled to make use of notes this way. I wanted to believe that maybe the act of writing them down in my own words helps me remember them better, but that simply didn’t come true for me. I tried everything from paper and pen to fancy apps like Notion, none of them solved the core problem: I never revisited anything I wrote down.

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Fiero Cafe

It’s been a while since I’ve written about a cafe. Maybe I just haven’t visited anywhere inspiring, maybe I simply forgot to keep up. Fiero Caffe, a low-key Italian diner at the edge of San Mateo downtown, fired up my passion to be a snobby cafe connoisseur again.

On a breezy and sunny Friday, we brought our laptops to San Mateo for a remote work day trip. At 11am, it was too late for a coffee shop but too early for lunch. Amid decision paralysis, an Italian caffe looked to be the perfect “in-between” candidate.

Fiero Caffe felt like the European neighborhood cafe that our boring American suburbs don’t deserve. Nondescript and somewhat eclipsed by the heavy traffic of El Camino Real, you’d never think that this space would so big and ambiance so quaint.

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Tools for thinking

If I ask you:

What tools have changed your mind,
Tools that you can no longer leave behind?
Not just those that are installed by default,
But those that added colors to your life?

What would your answer be?

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The Apple “pyramid of needs”

Apple this week announced that they are bringing Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro to the iPad Pro. That was a mouthful. But in case you don’t know: they are two of the industry standards for video and audio editing, respectively. They come with a steep learning curve, complex UI, powerful capabilities, and a target audience that runs the world’s film and music industry.

People have wished for them on the iPad for a long time, but my inner skeptic has always wondered what the point was. We already have touch-friendly iMovie and GarageBand for hobbyists, do we really have enough of a prosumer segment to build a sophisticated editing suite on a 12” touchscreen? Maybe it’s to provide professionals an on-the-go way to churn out some work. But why wouldn’t they just bring their MacBook Air, especially when it’s lighter than an iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard?

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