Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Because the sun has been shining...

...I've been taking photos

Beware of moose in the backyard

Mucking about

Self portrait

Beautiful patterns

Saturday, March 27, 2010

More good things!

Continuing with my list of goodies, I'd like to add:

Finding a good coffee shop in your neighbourhood

Sonic is a stone's throw from my doorstep, and I'm pretty stoked about that.

The coffee is good, the staff is friendly, there's even a bike affixed atop of the door, but what caught my eye, was the bike pump hanging by the door. A grand idea! Even better is the fact that they'll have bike tools on hand in the spring so you can fix your bike AND enjoy a good cup of java. The cafe opened in December 2009, is located on Cecil just off of Spadina and is still a bit of a hidden gem, which I'm okay with. I'm sure come spring when cyclists are out in full force and you see a fine mechanic fixing up bikes out front, it'll become the coolest kid on the block.

(Not the best quality shot in the world, but what can you do with a BlackBerry camera? I mean, really...)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Exactly what I needed...

I stumbled upon this great blog, 1000 Awesome Things by Neil Pasricha, right at the height of a craptastic week. The concept is simple: list 1,000 awesome things. Anything from fat baseball players to flossing (I love flossing) to the first shower you take after not taking a shower for a long time.

Pasricha's book version is coming out in April 2010, so look out for it.

A random list of some of my own 1,000 awesome things:

-Sleeping in you own bed after being away for a while
-Crushing garlic
-Riding at 6 am and hitting all green lights
-Coming up with a story idea
-When cute strangers smile at you
-Chair dancing at your cubicle
-Dancing while doing the dishes in your underwear
-The moment caffeine hits you
-Nervous interactions with a crush
-Buying people coffee
-Dinner parties
-Just ripe cantaloupe
-Getting film photos back from the shop
-Watering plants
-Taking vitamins
-Booking a plane ticket
-Learning German
-People with crappy taste who think they have fantastic taste
-Wearing the hood up in a hoodie

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Turn and face the strain


I'm going through some major stuff right now, and I keep thinking about ways to stay motivated and take the necessary steps to steer me towards my goals and generally feel better. It's hard because it seems like in the past little while, the gods have been crazy and the universe has been playing pranks on me, throwing curveballs. There have been lots of dips (and occasional ups) but it's the constant lack of positive reinforcement that makes being proactive somewhat difficult.

can be defined as moving towards something or away from something. Boiled down, motivation is either moving away from fear or moving towards desire.

I've been thinking a lot about how to mobilize and focus. I usually make huge changes in my life and then spend the rest of the time getting used to the change before making the next big change. But I find as you get older, the drastic changes happen less frequently as you get more comfortable. It all comes down to comfort, the fear of not being comfortable and the desire to seek out comfort. However if we can eliminate or at least diminish that fear, then there is less anxiety.

And so a list on making changes is in order:

1) Make a cup of tea, coffee, hot chocolate and sit down.
2) Make a list. This can be of goals you want to achieve in the next week, six weeks, six months, a year. Big and small changes. Then prioritize. If you need A, B, and C to get to D, then make sure they're in order.
3) Create a timeline. Make a deadline for what you want and when you want it by because it gives you something to look forward to.
4) Give a copy of this list to a friend or tell someone you trust and respect. You need support when you're making changes. Or at least I do. I find it much easier to talk to someone about stuff in my life because then I can derive further ideas from it.
5) Go forth and do it. Of course this bit can be hazy since procrastination and a bunch of other factors get in the way. But you have to try because there's a reason why you want to make some changes anyway, right?
6) Now make a list of things that are positive in your life. It helps to be thankful and grateful for the good things because you can't really make changes if you are constantly depressed.
7) Have a laugh. Because sometimes you need to have some minor distractions. And because you gotta try and spit out some of this hot fire.

This ALWAYS makes me snort out loud. Without fail.

What are some of your tips for making changes/staying motivated?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Yes, I have thyme

Are we actually as busy as we think we are? I don't think so.

The idea of being "time-poor" versus money-rich has been ingrained into us. Think about how many times you complain about not having enough hours in the day or reading lifestyle articles on how to find that work-life balance.

It's not about how many things we need to get done but about how we prioritize. We all have lists of things to do, some have fixed deadlines, others are flexible. It's a matter of putting the most urgent things at the top but also realizing that it's okay to let a few things slide if we don't happen to finish them today.

Busy people are drowning in "time debt" or at least want to appear to be. And in the case of debt (monetary, time or otherwise), I think you have to sit down and evaluate ways to manage and get out of it.

I'm trying to stop saying, "I don't have time" because in actuality, I do. Bits and pieces of it, here and there. Scott Berkun has an excellent blog post about the Cult of Busy. He writes:

"We all get the same amount of time every day. If you can’t do something it’s not about the quantity of time. It’s really about how important the task is to you. I’m sure if you were having a heart attack, you’d magically find time to go to the hospital."

If you break down how the hours in your day are spent, I suspect you'd find a few moments and chunks of time to spare. I know I do. It's like snacking. Some nutritionists emphasize snacking as opposed to eating large meals. The snacks still fill you up, but it's a slower, more steady satiation. I think it's the same with time and your tasks. It's a matter of using those bits and pieces of time wisely or to your satisfaction. I've always wanted to write a novel using small chunks of time. The sentences, paragraphs, pages, chapters all add up and the end result is the same.

The idea is similar to the Pomodoro Technique, which is designed to help with effective time management. It emphasizes doing your work in 25-minute chunks with 5-minute breaks.

I haven't tried it yet, but 25 minutes seems a manageable. Just enough to hold my attention and focus me, but not long enough to leave me feeling strained or stressed.

One last thought I'll leave you with. I love what Scott Berkun writes here:

"Time is the singular measure of life. It’s one of the few things you can not get more of. Knowing how to spend it well is possibly the most important skill you can have."

Friday, March 12, 2010

Anxiety rides a bicycle

I'm nervous.

I've decided to go ahead with this personal project. It's going to be daunting. It's going to be frustrating. I'll probably cry a bit. Or a lot.

I'm going to try and build a bicycle.

There, I said it. No big deal, right? Right? Wrong. I've been thinking about doing this for a while, and it's been causing me a great deal of anxiety. I've devoted countless number of hours and mental energy fretting about it. I've even woken up from dreams in a sweaty, sweaty mess with my hair matted to my forehead.

As it stands, I've got this rusting frame that's stripped down, one rear wheel, one-half of a rear basket, parts of brakes, a rusty chain, handlebars, a chain guard and bike guts all over my storage area floor. The thought of somehow assembling all those guts into a functional bicycle scares me to no end.

But, why?! Anyone who knows me knows I adore bicycles. I spend hours ogling bicycles and cyclists. Anytime a fine bicycle goes by, I turn my head. Anytime a fine cyclist goes by, I turn my head. Yet, there's this debilitating fear that is eating away at me.

And I've finally figured out why. It's not the fear of failure. It's not fact that I'm a lady diving into a "male-dominated" realm. It's not even the jumping into the unknown. Far from it. In fact, it's the jumping into the all-too-familiar. For me, bike repair has certain connotations, certain memories and associations to a past I don't necessarily need to revisit.

Hence the anxiety. Hence the fear.

Bike repair was never my area of expertise. I simply rode the bicycles that were built for me, no questions asked. But my curiosity has finally gotten the better of me. And that curiosity eventually won the arm-wrestling match with fear. The very essence of a bicycle screams self-sufficiency, so I want to learn how the machine works.

For me, the bicycle is a symbol of freedom. No waiting around for public transportation, no overcrowding into someone else's personal space. Biking is about five times as fast as walking. The wind goes through your hair. You feel every wind gust, every rain drop. There's a connectivity to the outside world that a four-wheeled shell can never provide. You are accountable for your speed and to a certain extent, your safety. It's taking transportation into your own hands (or feet, rather).

Do you ever have moments where you know you're on the verge of something big? Like once you cannon-ball into the unknown, there's no going back. It's like you can smell some kind of change in the air. The sweet scent of familiarity yet there's the unknown is much more overpowering, intoxicating. It's subtle but strong. Maybe even dangerous. Despite initial fears and reservations, you have to find out what it is.

So I'm going to try and do it. I'm going on this ride. And hopefully I'll meet some friends along the way. Kind and patient friends. Toronto has a wonderful cycling culture complete with a number of community bicycle collectives:

*Bike Pirates on Bloor
*Bike Sauce (opening up on the east end in the spring)
*Bikechain at the University of Toronto
*Community Bicycle Network on Queen (CBN offers some great workshops)

And as a great resource, the Toronto Cyclists Union.

As well, my friend Jeremy was kind enough to lend me the Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair. And while I was in Chicago, I picked up this little gem:

Wish me a bon voyage. I'll take photos and send a postcard when I arrive.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

When I do, becomes I wish I hadn't

Sometimes it's just so damn nice to get out of the city and go to another city.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

All look same?!

Last week I went to an "Asian"-themed party. It's fucked, I know. Despite some initial reservations, I tried to quiet that inner voice and went anyway. It was a birthday party for a girl who is half-Asian, and she decided to celebrate her Asianess by making it the theme. So up went the red lanterns, on went the Japanese pop and out came the stereotypes. Imagine my horror when I, and other Asians at the party were introduced as "resident" Asians. Fuck, is right.

I even got asked: So, can you tell other Asians apart?

And yes, it is 2010.

The thing that really got me was the fact that this party was supposed to be a lark. That somehow racism, when under the guise of a joke or being funny, is supposed to be acceptable. When did being pegged as a "resident" minority become hilarious? And that somehow, if I don't see the humour in there, that I should lighten up. It's like being rounded up and branded with a scarlet letter "A" for all to see. As if I didn't already know that I was a minority in what is supposed to be a multicultural country, a city with a "harmonious hodgepodge of religions and cultures".

I know it's human to latch onto things that distinguishes a person from another. Person A wears glasses, person B has blonde hair. It's a weird thing to have your ethnicity constantly be pointed out or be the forefront to what others see.

You'd think I'd be used to it by now. I may be used to it, but it doesn't mean it bothers me any less. Having travelled around, my ethnicity has often been on the first (and sometimes only) thing people see. Sure, it's an aspect of me but it doesn't define all of me. It would be naive to think that people do not judge others on first impressions -- a person may have a snaggletooth or a lazy eye -- but does that mean you have to point it out? As if the other person isn't already aware of it.

It's ironic since what makes me "different" doesn't even make me distinguishable from another Asian. An example: A few weeks ago, an acquaintance (I've since downgraded his status from "friend" to "acquaintance" because after a year and a half, he still did not know my name despite us having hung out several times before). He called me Sandra. My name is not Sandra. I have never been named Sandra. Sandra is the name of a friend of a friend who moved to New York. FOUR YEARS AGO. Apparently we look alike. We're both Asian. I guess this acquaintance never bothered to notice that we were TWO DIFFERENT PEOPLE. And this shit happens all the time. Even to media personalities on television.

Michael Phelps recently thought Lainey Liu of Laineygossip.com was the same girl in Scotty Lago's inappropriate medal-biting photos. So of course, the natural conclusion to jump to for Lago is to think that Lainey is part of some insane conspiracy to bring him down.

Phelps and Lago may have the muscles, but I also thought they had eyes. Eyes that could look at someone's face and distinguish differences in features, height, age from another person.

Hello, Racial Profiling. I do believe you've met Mr. Phelps and Mr. Lago. I, too, however, have had the misfortune to make your acquaintance.

P.S. I am not in either of the above photos.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Cleanliness is Godliness

I've been reorganizing my desk and craft corner lately so as to maximize creativity/productivity. Thanks to Sarah (and Ikea) for helping me put up these hanging pen and marker pods.

Invisible shelves from Umbra

A gorgeous building in Montreal. Random shot

Oh, you know...a muffin hanging out in a bush. Just another day...