Category Archives: Did you know…

The 9-digit dance, and Petit Billy

Because this is life, and in life, shit happens, I am typing with nine and not ten fingers.

You see, I cut myself on the index finger while making dinner Easter Sunday. Not trying to be graphic here, but I bled profusely. It took a full 20+ minute of hard pressing for the bleeding to subside to an on-and-off ooze, and were it not for my level-headed roommate, who not only bandaged my wound but also assured me that I would not die, I don’t know what I would have done. The unfortunate accident resulted in my paying a visit to the ER, and, unintentionally, getting Good Monday off after all. Continue reading

Nature-word extinction: when “Blackberry” replaces “blackberry”

Blackberry made a splash when it reported its results in the fourth quarter ended Feb. 28. Financial newswires jumped to announce that the company’s quarterly sales was the lowest in eight years, and revenue, which slid to $660 million from $793 million, was well below estimation.

But enough about that Blackberry. Let’s talk blackberry. You know, the dark-skinned, juicy fruit. Like, the edible kind.

In fact, Blackberry has replaced blackberry when searching in Google. To find the fruit, you have to type in “blackberry, fruit.” (image credit: botane.net)

In a beautiful essay celebrating words, landscape words in particular, Robert Macfarlane (The Guardian) writes that a new edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary removed a substantial number of words concerning nature. The deletion included the following:

acorn, adder, ash, beech, bluebell, buttercup, catkin, conker, cowslip,cygnet, dandelion, fern, hazel, heather, heron, ivy, kingfisher, lark, mistletoe,nectar, newt, otter, pasture and willow

New words replacing them included “attachment, block-graph, blog, broadband, bullet-point, celebrity,chatroom, committee, cut-and-paste, MP3 player and voice-mail.” Oxford University Press explained its decision stating that the deleted entries are no longer “relevant to a modern-day childhood.”

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Networking: it’s all about those nodes and links and randomness

We’ve all, more or less, heard of or experienced the so-called six degrees of separation. The theory, which is attributed to Harvard professor Stanley Milgram’s experiment, demonstrates that we live in a small world where, more often than not, we are only six steps away from connecting with anyone. Move interconnectivity to the web, you’ll find that “any document is on average only nineteen clicks away from any other,” writes Albert-László Barabási in his book, Linked.

But our idea of the Web, with search engines like Google connecting us to webpages, which then direct us to other hyperlinks — this interconnected world, how does it all begin?

The book, explores the problem with a famous mathematical problem, the Königsberg Bridge problem. In Königsberg, Russia, there are seven bridges connecting the city to the island of Kneiphof. The puzzle asks:

 Can one walk across the seven bridges and never cross the same one twice?

Well, I would have to see the location of the bridges.

Fair enough.

Konigsberg Bridge Puzzle (image credit: simonkneebone)

And then, and then… I would try walking through all my solutions?  Continue reading

Grilled cheese and ham sandwich Frenchified: Croque Monsieur

Life is unfair in a lot of ways. For one, all cultures are not obsessed equally, especially the French. From accent to fashion to even their women (see Mireille Guiliano’s French Women Don’t Get Fat), even a simple grilled ham and cheese sandwich seems that much tastier and worthy of the hefty $16 when it’s called Croque Monsieur (pronounced crock ma-seur). 

Literally translated to “fried mister,” the rustic yet elegant snack is a staple for the French and sold in most cafe, bistro, brasserie and even as frozen food in France. The iconically French dish is nothing more than “a hot sandwich, made of 2 slices of buttered bread with crusts removed, filled with thin slices of Gruyère cheese and a slice of lean ham,” according to Larousse Gastronomique.

From Burette, la croque madame (image credit: fancy.com)

From Burette, la croque madame (image credit: fancy.com)\

A ham and cheese is a “Mr” (croque monsieur) and a ham and cheese topped with an egg is a “Madame” (croque madame). While the treat can be replicated at home, nothing beats a a visit to the 50-seat, French-inspired Buvette in West Village.

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A healthier lifestyle, starting, with plant eating (dirt included)

With new year, comes new year resolutions. Chinese New Year, which falls on a Thursday (February 19) this year, is no exception. Prepare to kick of the year with a more healthful, greener eating from Spot Dessert Bar.

The potted plant, aka “Harvest” from Spot Dessert Bar (image credit: Serious Eats)

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The Art of Moving (aka Newton’s Third Law)

Moving from the Lower East Side to Queens is putting a year and a half of life, or more precisely 534 days, in boxes. A year is long enough for me to collect a list of my favorite neighborhood spots, including Croissanteria on Avenue A (hands down the best croissant in the City) and Pain D’Avignon in Essex Market (a winner for baguette and breads in general). But a year is also short enough that I do not call the neighborhood home.

I hired movers to help me with the move. And having packed and unpacked boxes, I’ve learned a few things about the art of moving.

Irony: “Honestly, I don’t have much stuff!”
That’s what I had believed and when I called the movers, I informed them that I have very little luggage. I had a large suitcase, five boxes (and maybe a little more), a mattress/frame, desk, chair, small bookshelf and two lamps. But no, I stressed that I travel light.

Turned out, I was a little off in my calculation. Either the boxes I salvaged from my apartment’s recycling bin were too small, or I was a hoarder of not-essential-but-might-be-useful-later things, instead of five boxes I ended up with 12.

The first rule to mastering the art of moving, More, not less boxes, seriously, stop deluding yourself.

(image credit: allaroundmovingcom)

You + Your Life = Boxes 
Excluding furniture, my roommate summed up her years in the city as followed: “This is what I am, 20 boxes.” Continue reading

“Madame Cézanne,” the curious case of the looker and the looked-upon

Hortense Fiquet, stares impassively. She is not strikingly beautiful, hardly, and her oval face is pale and smooth like a hard-boiled egg. You wonder what the artist saw in her face that compelled him to paint her 29 times, excluding sketchbook after sketchbook of Hortense’s pencil drawings.

She is Madame Cézanne, Paul Cézanne’s lover, wife, the mother of his only son and his most painted model. The Metropolitan Museum of the Art has put together the “Madame Cézanne” Exhibit (Nov 19, 2014 ~ Mar 15, 2015), bringing together 24 of the artist’s painting of Hortense.

Madame Cezanne in the Orchard (image credit: MET Museum)

To understand the significance of the woman behind the great man, we must first find out about the man.

Cézanne, a Post-Impressionist painter, has inspired modernist painters like Picasso. Cézanne rejected Impressionism’s emphasis on light and color, and turned to structure, order. Jackie Wullschiager wrote in a review for the Financial Times:

Cézanne’s directness — the balance, pictorial logic, simplification of natural forms to geometric essentials — laid the foundations of modern art

That “directness,” is visible even when painting Hortense. Cézanne absorbed her face, exploring the sharp angles and planes of her face, painting it over and over, and reducing it to odd geometry. The artist was not concerned with replicating her face. Instead, he ventured into early abstract art, freeing the painting from the need to represent reality.

But I wonder, had Cézanne looked at Hortense beyond a paintable object, would they be happier as a couple?  Continue reading

The art to “Much ado about nothing”

When Shakespeare talk of “Much ado about nothing” — the title of his play and also (much later) two movies, 1993 and 2012 — nothing refers to gossip and rumors. In the play, nothing not only made Claudio reject Hero on the day of their wedding day, it also forced Benedick and Beatrice to confess their love for each other.

(image credit: Wired/Joss Whedon)

Today, nothing refers to, well, nothing, and the idiom has come to equate “all that fuss over nothing.” Somehow, I’ve managed to take counter-productivity to a new level in my attempt to move to my new apartment with as few boxes as possible.

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