Saturday, March 26, 2016

#obsessed – Indie Pop

It has come to my attention recently that about 60% of my Spotify consists of really old middle school pop. They're still good songs, but it is far past time to update and expand my music tastes. Pop music nowadays isn't really appealing anymore; once in a while a Top 40 song will be something I like, but less and less so. Without radio exposure, I guess I just haven't picked up any new music aside from what my friends show me, or new songs by artists I already like.

To remedy this, I dove headfirst into the Browse feature on Spotify. It seems that my music taste has morphed to indie pop and electronic music, so those were the ones I started with. To my surprise, I found a playlist that I liked almost completely (aside from 2 songs). The playlist is to the right if you have a Spotify account, but if you don't, here are Youtube links:

» Conqueror – Aurora
» Electric Love – BØRNS
» Gold – Kiiara
» Keeping Your Head Up – Birdy
» Monster Lead Me Home – Sara Hartman
» Waking Up – Mr Little Jeans

Thursday, March 24, 2016

MDIP – Transit Struggles

On Wednesday I decided to take a break from sleeping and go with Emma to visit Anna in Cupertino. To get there, we navigated the local AC Transit, BART, and Caltrain –– and failed miserably at all of them. We started off taking the bus to the wrong BART station, where we boarded the wrong train (twice), had to sprint up to the other platform to transfer, and missed our Caltrain. We were stuck at the Millbrae station for an hour, but luckily the info booth employee directed us to an In-N-Out only a 10 minute walk away. In-N-Out, with its signature palm tree decor, looked like a literal oasis. I haven't had In-N-Out in such a long time, so what started out as a missed train turned out to be an opportunity.

We made it to Cupertino in the end and refreshed at the legendary Tpumps. I'm not a fan of tea, but the flavors they added completely masked the taste of the tea so it was more like a fruit drink than a tea. I'm also not a fan of tapioca, but I love the popping boba. Drinks in hand, we drove back to Anna's house, where I finally met her cat, who is a wonderful precious fuzzbean. I also ate half a samosa, which was a bad mistake. I was expecting it to not be spicy, but it was way above my spice tolerance. I literally cried and drank nearly all of Emma's milk tea. The pain subsided, but an important lesson was learned.

I would have been happy playing with the cat all afternoon, but the plan was to watch a movie. The nearest theater was the AMC in Vallco Mall. I had been there years ago, and even then, it wasn't an exciting mall, but I didn't expect it to be a ghost mall this time. Granted, it was the middle of the day, when most people were at work or at school, but most of the stores were closed as well. There weren't even any employees selling tickets, so we used the automated machines. The showing of Zootopia was at 2:30, but even though we were a little late, there were plenty of seats. It was definitely a witty movie, but I wouldn't say it's necessary to watch it in theaters.

Emma had a dinner planned with her roommate, so Anna's mom drove us up to the Fremont BART station so we wouldn't have to deal with the transfer between Caltrain and BART on the way back. Somehow, we got onto the wrong train again, but switching to the right train was fairly easy, as we didn't have to switch platforms and rush hour meant trains were coming every minute. Once we were on the right train, I fell asleep on the way back. Transit is surprisingly exhausting.

Arriving at the Downtown Berkeley BART Station, the final leg of the journey was to take the bus back to Unit 2. The 51B wasn't coming for 8 minutes, so we decided to take the 49, which would have dropped us off at Unit 1, which is within walking distance of Unit 2. Unfortunately, I didn't notice that there are two 49 lines, the 49A and the 49B. Of course, it happened to be the wrong one that I boarded, so we freaked out a bit as we realized it was taking us away from campus. We walked a distance before finally boarding the 51B and arriving home, where I promptly plopped into bed and watched an episode of Agents of SHIELD before going to sleep. ◊

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Spring Break Update

I'm one of the few people on my floor who hasn't gone home for spring break, but for me, that's okay, because 1) I don't have to deal with noisy floormates and 2) I don't have to deal with noisy siblings. It's been a lovely, peaceful, relaxing, quiet few days so far, and I love it. I've been a cozy cat, catching up on work, sleep, and shows, and I've cleaned up the room a fair bit. It's gotten a little messy lately because everyone's too busy with midterms to bother picking up, so having this mini fresh start was a nice way to reset. Really, the year does't begin until spring; winter's when everything's dying and ending.

Spring break is also a much needed breather. I haven't had a free weekend since winter break, and it looks like my weekends between now and the end of the year are more or less full as well. As such, I haven't had a chance to think back and reflect on the things that have happened this semester. It's been quite an eventful semester. I joined Berkeley Political Review as a writer and sometimes artist, as well as CREATE, teaching a first grade art class. This fulfills my goal from first semester of "wanting to do more," but I think next semester I will be cutting out some of the extracurriculars in favor of a more rigorous academic schedule. I've dipped my toes in, and now it's time to dive in and swim.

It's late, and I don't have much to say, but I wanted to make an update just to keep a record of some of the things I've done recently.

»Berkeley Tournament
Speech and debate tournaments are better in memory than in experience, but it was still a ton of fun to hang out with the Expos Small Children.

»Bouldering and Nerf Wars
I was unsure of whether to go or not at first, but I ended up having a ton of fun, even though I was sore for days afterwards.

»Memorial Stadium Secret Tour
I'm in a history seminar led by a very old professor emeritus and former dean, so he arranges a ton of cool secret trips for the class that are off limits to the public. Here's Memorial Stadium from the press box.

»Pancake Day
National Pancake Day was Tuesday, March 8, so the weekend before, Anna, Emma, and I made pancakes in the ground floor kitchenette.

»Spring Fling
Unit 2 Hall Associations organized an event called Spring Fling, the highlights of which were the polaroids and the flower crowns.

»Museum of Entomology
Another one of the secret trips organized for the history seminar, the Essig Museum of Entomology has a vast and fascinating collection of insects and other bugs, including a few original samples collected by Charles Darwin himself! The butterflies are prettier though.

»Identity Crisis Resolution and Blog Redesign
I know I just posted on this, but I've resolved my identity crisis and it feels so good. Moratorium made life in general feel so listless, directionless, and anxious. It was hard to know what I wanted when I didn't even know who I am. To mark the occasion, I updated my blog theme by changing the title fonts and the color from purple to black. The monochrome feels so clean, which is the intended effect. Spring break has been highly effective for spring cleaning, both physically and mentally. I also updated all my social media handles. I fully intend to use them more, especially as I get a better idea of their purposes. I consider Tumblr to be like scrapbooking, where sideblogs are collations of images of a certain theme. Twitter will be the digital house of all my post-it note thoughts, which are currently suffocating my walls. Instagram is a photo album, Snapchat is for communication, and Pinterest is the organized cabinet of ideas. I'm thinking of deleting a few social media sites too, mainly Facebook, some time around finals week. Overall, I'm feeling quite good, and I'm looking forward to establishing a healthy eating, exercising, and sleeping regimen throughout the rest of this week. ◊

Friday, March 18, 2016

Food Friday #022 – Delhi Diner

I was looking through my blog archive for the last Food Friday I did in order to continue the numbering system, but to my surprise, the last post was in October of last year! It's not that I haven't eaten anything (obviously) but I guess I've been busy in general and therefore neglecting this blog, especially posts that require a fair amount of planning and patience on my friends' behalf (to leave the food alone until I have taken sufficient photographic records). Luckily I had the presence of mind to take several photos at Anna's birthday last week. Her parents took Emma and I with them to an Indian restaurant. I usually stay away from Indian food because it's known to be spicy, but Anna's mother was also not a fan of spice, so all the food we ordered was fairly mild. It was a lovely experience and I am now a samosa enthusiast as well. I'm going to skip the review because it was a while ago (and they're a hassle to write) but I enjoyed the meal and would recommend it for sure! ◊

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Resolution (Identity Part 4)

I firmly believe that identity is fluid. From almost the very beginnings of this blog, written as a less articulate high schooler, part of my description page has said, "So this page is meant to answer the question, "Who am I?" and to be honest, there is no definite answer because I'm always changing. Not drastically, but I definitely know that I am not the same person now as I was two years, two months, or even two weeks ago." Change is the only constant. Regarding change of identity, I find myself again contemplating a change of name (really, pen name or pseudonym) which shouldn't be a big deal. As Shakespeare said, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." One may argue that while pen names and pseudonyms and alter egos are made up, so are birth names. What's in a name, really?

However, the issue at this point is the problem of having had too many identities and now too much clutter. Though these names are made up and these identities have no real physical form in the world, their cumulative presence is indicative of an identity crisis that is very real. I revisited some old posts and was surprised to find that I've been in the midst of an identity crisis for over a year. It comes and it goes in strength, but it remains unresolved. It's clear to me now that even "Clary J. Simmons," the name and identity I thought was a satisfactory solution, was a borrowed name – borrowed from the fictional characters and meanings that I liked. Like a borrowed sweater, it looks nice and it feels nice, but it isn't mine, and I have to admit, there are some parts where it doesn't fit perfectly. Once again I found myself with no idea of who I was, looking into the mirror and not recognizing the face that was supposedly mine.

It's worth noting that depersonalization and derealization are well established phenomena, especially in the case of panic disorder, of which I am affected by. These last few weeks have been ridiculously intense academically, as midterms approach and program applications close. Needless to say, my stress and anxiety levels have been off the charts, and it's been taking significant effort to withhold a full blown panic attack. I'm not surprised that this is when the identity crisis has intensified. But in order to clean out my mental health landscape, as with physical settings, sometimes it is necessary to take everything apart in order to put it back together again.

In recent times, much discussion has arisen regarding gender identity, sexual identity, even racial identity, and I have found myself struggling so much to find a label that fits for me. Despite my desire to reject all identity labels, I somehow still feel like there is a societal pressure to choose one and stick to it. It's almost oppressive. In fact, in ED190, there was a discussion at one point, either on Freire or Vgotsky (I believe it was Freire but I'd have to clarify) about this very topic, and perhaps the idea that "to be human" means "to be able to change." By emphasizing the need to declare and conform to a single identity, society maintains the status quo, leaving individuals no space to learn and grow.

Seemingly, society was not always this rigid. In Buddhist tradition, a monk or nun is given a Dharma name in the ordination ceremony. Several Native American cultures give multiple descriptive names throughout significant stages of life, a practice I envy. Some name changes can be taken for granted, such as those who adopt an "Americanized name" after immigrating, or one who chooses a new name as part of a gender transition, or the taking of a spouse's last name after marriage. But aside from these, it is neither practical nor common to see frequent name changes in modern society. While lack of identity grants total freedom, identity is a necessity to hold individuals accountable without being completely dehumanizing (think Social Security numbers or at worst, Holocaust registration numbers). And for most, names are a source of pride for those who are comfortable with their identity.

If it hasn't been made clear already, I am not comfortable with my name nor my identity. My legal name is discordant and anachronistic for my age. To discard it would hardly be a tragedy, as it isn't even my birth name. My birth name was so early in my childhood that I nearly forgot it even existed. In middle school, when nicknames were all the rage, I struggled to find one that wasn't harsh or derisive. However, I've come to realize that no matter what I change to, these names will always be a part of me, like the inner layers of a Russian nesting doll. They remain profoundly influential to who I am, inextricably tied to stages of development sealed in time. It might take a while, but I think I'm starting to accept that.

In the meantime, the urge to change remains. As I haven't fully accepted the past yet, the desire to run from it, to be someone else pushes on my senses like instinct. I think it's best exemplified by one of my new favorite movies, Breakfast at Tiffany's. Audrey Hepburn's free-spirited character finds her past catching up to her, despite her best efforts to remain unfettered to her former life. Holly Golightly, running from her past life as Lula Mae, doesn't resolve her quandary, remarking "I'm not Holly. I'm not Lula Mae, either. I don't know who I am! I'm like cat here, a couple of no-name slobs." Her nameless cat bears a striking resemblance to my cat Larry, who has also been subject to several renamings and doesn't have a real identity. I relate to her "mean reds" too, which I interpret to be anxiety: "Suddenly you're afraid and you don't know what you're afraid of."

The thing is, I enjoy creating identities and pen names. I enjoy the way certain sounds roll off the tongue, I enjoy seeing the way the letters are arranged, the way they're signed in lovely, loopy cursive. With my abundance of names, I can afford to be a chooser. This time around, I'm relaxing the uptight demeanor. I'm in college, and I want to enjoy it and have fun. As always, in the age of Twitter usernames and URLs, I've picked something that's unique and stands out.* I'm still keeping the accounts related to this blog separate from my social accounts, as I'm only comfortable sharing this blog with close friends or complete strangers. At the end of the day, I want to have a distinct identity, not a collection of potential characters. I expect after a while I will get bored of this name and change it again. In fact, I am already aware of what the situation that may prompt that change could look like. At this point, it's not an issue. There's no need whatsoever to conform to a single identity for the rest of my life. ◊

*(please check "CONTACT" for updated social media handles)

Saturday, March 5, 2016

MDIP – Rainy Day Thrifting

Thrift shopping has been another activity on my Berkeley Bucket List (I should really write out an actual list at some point) for a while now, but I hadn't had much time to do it. At the beginning of the year, I mentioned it to my friends who were also extremely enthusiastic about the prospect, but it was not until the beginning of this semester that we resolved to set aside a date to pursue the endeavor. Alas, as the day rolled around, Berkeley was in the midst of a storm. In fact, the day before, I had been caught unprepared by the rain and had unhappily sloshed back to my dorm room from campus. Averse to recreating that experience, I broke out the combat boots and coats and braved the elements with my friend Emma on Saturday morning.

The destination was Crossroads Trading Co. at the corner of Durant and Shattuck. On the way, we decided to pop in to Francesca's to see if there were any suitable gifts for our friend Anna. Her birthday was upcoming and she had expressed interest in an adult coloring book. To our delight, a beautiful copy of Johanna Basford's Secret Garden was available, which we instantly bought without a second thought, along with a card and a funny little cat coin bag. Approaching the bus stop, I ran into a friend from high school. The few seconds we spent chatting about the rain resulted in a missed bus. With the rain, buses were always overcrowded and behind schedule, so we walked down, knowing that the time it would take the next bus to arrive was far longer than the time it would take to walk.

We arrived at an unassuming storefront, high-ceilinged on the inside (I've always had an affinity towards rooms with high ceilings), rows and rows of racks meticulously crammed with clothes. Towards the left of the entrance were women's clothes, but a pair of shoes on top of the racks quickly caught my eye. Black suede wedge heels with gold accents, size 6.5 – perfect. I snatched them up and continued browsing, looking specifically for a Gatsby style dress, a floral maxi skirt, and a coat, preferably anorak style, in forest green or navy.

At the coat section, Emma, walking in front, found a green coat in the style I was looking for. Unfortunately for me, she wanted to keep it for herself, so I was out of luck. Not long after, I picked up a heavier coat in navy, but it felt well worn and was a little more expensive than I expected (this is a thrifting adventure, after all).

I enlisted Emma's help to find a suitable dress; combing through the racks, we found two potential candidates. One was a smidge too big, the other fit like a charm, but didn't fit the theme exactly enough to warrant being a must-buy. I would have bought it had there been any other upcoming events requiring a dress, but since there was not, both ended up returned to the shelves, and I walked out with the pair of shoes and the coat, at Emma's insistence.

Catty-corner to the thrift shop was a used books store, Pegasus books. Whilst waiting for the bus, we wandered inside a bit, but found nothing of interest except more copies of Secret Garden. It's been ages since I've immersed myself in a fictional world of words. The last time I tried, with The Lord of the Rings, I found that I simply could not replicate the sense of wonder books used to bring. Nowadays, a particularly resonant academic assigned reading elicits excitement; Freire and Lipset enrich my scholastic repertoire but are stressful to read nonetheless.

I returned to my room exhausted. Out of my window I saw a city enveloped in drizzle and sunk into my chair knowing that it wasn't likely that I would finish any homework. In this state, it would be far more productive to take some time to unwind from a horribly stressful week. While watching an episode each of The Middle and Modern Family, I savored spaghetti and meatballs from Gypsy's, and afterwards, a large hot chocolate (extra whip) from Peet's. As Lorde crooned softly in the background setting a contemplative mood, I opened my computer to write this blog post, reflecting on the day, the week, and life in general. Both roommates gone at the time, it was moment of unperturbed peace. ◊