TRAVEL BLOG

Snow Day! The Joy of Juno

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Being from Colorado, seeing snowfall makes me feel right at home. But even I was getting nervous on Monday, when the winter storm warnings were issued and everyone hastily wrapped up their work to... READ MORE

First Snowfall at the Cloisters

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Last weekend my Dad, who came with my Mom to the Tri-state area for the holidays, visited me for one last day in NYC (while my mother ran off to California for a slew... READ MORE

Paint Nite

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A friend of mine had a couple of vouchers to Paint Nite, one of the companies in the burgeoning business of holding step-by-step painting lessons at bars. As its tagline states, “Drink. Paint. Party!” That... READ MORE

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

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I feel that there are certain things you have to do at least once if you live in New York City, and attending nationally televised events, like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, is one... READ MORE

Observation: Habits are Hard to Unlearn

posted in: Journal, User Experience | 0

Our company just went through a series of renovations, during part of which our department was temporarily housed in a conference room on a different floor. This past week, we finally made the move back to our original floor to our permanent seats!

So many things are different: new standing desks, a larger kitchen, a redesigned reception area, and different neighbors. But even though almost everything has changed, I’m pretty sure that one thing has remained constant: the bathroom. It’s in exactly the same location and there was nothing wrong with it to begin with, so there’d be no reason to rebuild it or replace anything, right?

Yet, after our 5-month absence, it feels subtly – but noticeably – different.

Every day of this past week, I’ve finished my business, washed my hands, turned to leave, and wondered why the faucet was still running. Shouldn’t it have shut off by now? No, of course not, because it’s not automatic. And if my memory serves, I don’t think it ever was. But the faucets on our temporary floor were.

This illustrates the fact that, once we get used to how something works, it’s hard to make adjustments – even if it’s to go back to the way things originally were. In fact, it might even be the case that it’s easier to ditch an old system and learn a new one than it is to ditch (or unlearn) a new system and go back to the old. I had automatic faucets, man, and I liked them.

It only applies to systems in the same context, however – I don’t leave a trail of running faucets everywhere I go, but I see this particular sink and this particular set up, and I think ‘automatic’. I also noticed that it applies to the toilets: all of them flush automatically except for one, and I’ve frequently come across some unexpected leftovers in that particular stall.

The curious thing is that I don’t stand in front of the sink bewildered, wondering why the water hasn’t turned on. I automatically know that I have to reach out and physically lift the handle, and this reintroduced action doesn’t enter my awareness in the slightest. But then I get distracted by admiring my new pearly white teeth, and my brain quickly clicks into automatic-faucet mode.

How long will it take to get readjusted? Only time will tell. But it goes to show that UX insights can come from anywhere, even the most unlikely of places.

 

Snow Day! The Joy of Juno

posted in: New York City, Passport, USA | 0

Being from Colorado, seeing snowfall makes me feel right at home. But even I was getting nervous on Monday, when the winter storm warnings were issued and everyone hastily wrapped up their work to start the mad dash for home. By 2pm, the office was more than half empty, and the general consensus was that the following day would be a work-at-home day.

YES, Snow Day! With, you know, work. But still plenty of time to play in the snow!

New York had already issued a state of emergency, and at 9pm, we received a mass emergency alert on our phones stating that “all non-emergency must be off all roads in NYC by 11pm until further notice.” At 11pm, subways officially shut down as well. NYC was taking every precaution…

…all for nothing, it seems. There was a solid six inches of snow piled up on the streets when I woke up the next morning, but the forecast for the “biggest snowstorm in the history of New York City” fell short.

It was still enough to quiet the city and turn it into a frosty playground, though. So I set out on a stroll to Central Park at 8:30am, when most of the city was sleeping and the snow was still undisturbed, to capture scenes of the storm in a normally bustling city.

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Just about everything was closed. Only a handful of cars and people were out on the expansive streets, and the crosswalks all had barricades of snow around 2 feet high. This was an incredibly tall mound of snow right next to the Rockefeller Center (see the snowplow on the left for scale):

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Subway service was suspended until 9am, but there was barely anyone out and about to ride them.

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I found these snow piles quite funny:

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And Central Park was picturesque:

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When I went back to actually play in the snow almost 12 hours later, there was barely a square meter of snow that had not been trampled, formed into a snowman, or packed by hundreds of feet. And all of the road-side snow that had been so fun to jump in had degenerated into unidentifiable slush. I figured such beauty couldn’t last long in the city. But beautiful it most certainly was, and I’m so glad I was fortunate enough to capture it.

ROOT CANAL

posted in: Journal | 0

I take good care of my teeth. If there were a dental equivalent of a teacher’s pet, I would be it. I generally avoid sweets, brush and floss twice a day, and am always commended for my excellent oral hygiene by dental hygienists.

Despite my best efforts, though, my teeth aren’t as pearly white as I would wish. One tooth, in particular:

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That’s mostly due to bad lighting, but still. (And I’m not going to point it out – if you can’t see it, then that’s unlikely, but great!)

Ever since I moved to NYC, it’s been getting steadily darker. Finally, a few months ago, I figured that I had to take action and do something about it. But before I shelled out money for expensive whitening treatments, my dad convinced me to at least get a cleaning first. Cleaning are harmless, why not?

Well, the cleaning was harmless (just unpleasant), but I got news that was not. The dentist took one look at my tooth and told me that it was dead.

Sometimes, usually when you suffer trauma to the mouth, the nerve inside a tooth will be constricted and eventually die. When that happens, old blood builds up in the tooth and slowly turns it a rusty brown color. I refused to believe it, but the dentist rolled her eyes and performed the cold test on my teeth with a small block of ice. On my normal, healthy teeth, the cold made me flinch with pain. But on the offending tooth, I couldn’t feel a single thing.

So, yep. Definitely dead. The first part of my body to perish, a little piece of my skeleton poking out and slowly rotting away… pleasant imagery, huh?

Just like that, I was conducting google searches for “root canal nyc (and briefly for “dental implants nyc,” but thankfully I got talked out of that drastic route), which just a few weeks earlier was just as unlikely to be in my search history as “amputation” and “botox treatment.” I had heard of root canals before; they just would never happen to me.

Alas, I made the earliest appointment I could, for this week, and found myself in the endodontist’s chair. She patiently pointed out my canal on the X-Rays, explained the procedure, and convinced me that a root canal would be inevitable, so I was making the right pre-emptive choice.

Despite the bad rap that root canals always get (I don’t think they’ve ever been brought up in conversation without an accompanying wince), it was actually quite literally painless.

The endodontist isolated my tooth with a rubbery green barrier and injected my gums with anesthesia. A few minutes later the numbness kicked in, and I was lounging quite comfortably with noise-canceling headphones in the reclining chair. The only problem was that an entire nostril got numbed along with the front tooth, so I couldn’t tell if I had a trail of snot dribbling into my mouth. But overall, a pretty minor woe.

The root canal consisted of drilling, lots of probing with thin, 1.5-in metal sticks, and a series of X-rays. I did feel it, but only to the extent that you normally feel something knocking against your tooth: it doesn’t hurt, but you know that something is bumping against it. For the most part, I just stared wide-eyed at the endodontist and her assistant, trying to catch a glimpse of what was happening from the reflection on their glasses. I wonder if that wigs them out…but honestly, there’s nothing else to stare at, and dozing off during a root canal doesn’t seem quite appropriate.

Afterward, I asked for permission to take a picture of the X-rays:

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  1. Front teeth before the root canal (the one that was treated is the one on the right)
  2. A metal probe inserted all the way to the tip of the canal (when she took this X-Ray, the assistant warned me, “DO NOT bite down”)
  3. A test of the filling
  4. Filling inserted and left to set

And *drrrrrrrrrumroll* the final result:

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A non-decaying and normal-colored tooth! Turns out it was a good thing that I got the root canal when I did, because the nerve inside was already mushy like a blood clot. Cleaning it out also naturally whitened it, which is an added bonus!

Two hours later the anesthesia wore off, I ate a full lunch, and then I was back at work in the afternoon, like nothing had happened. I’m not going to book another root canal like it’s a spa treatment, but it definitely wasn’t any more unpleasant than a general cleaning. Just a lot more expensive.

As for what might have caused the tooth to die, even though the tooth only started worsening recently, the trauma could have been from a decade and a half ago. In that case, the only instance I can think of was a P.E. class in 6th grade, when a P.E. teacher named Mr. Fink tried to encourage me to participate in field hockey and “go TO the puck” by hitting a hockey puck straight at my mouth. That was the incident that forever rendered me scared of all sports involving balls – and also cost me a tooth, apparently. You see, Mr. Fink? THIS IS WHY I ran AWAY.

First Snowfall at the Cloisters

posted in: New York City, Passport, USA | 0

Last weekend my Dad, who came with my Mom to the Tri-state area for the holidays, visited me for one last day in NYC (while my mother ran off to California for a slew of New Year’s Eve late-night ballroom dancing celebrations. Meanwhile, I stayed in on New Year’s Eve and baked cookies. Can you say “role reversal”?)

The forecast for the day was about 10 solid hours of a 90% chance of rain, but at a loss of anything else to do, I suggested visiting the Cloisters. I had heard that it was a less-trafficked branch of the Met that had a focus on Medieval architecture as well as art. As my Dad was an architect by training, I figured he would enjoy it.

We took the long subway ride North past 200th Street and emerged to find that, true to the forecast, there was precipitation. However, it was of the dry, fluffy, white kind. Now, this I don’t mind!

It’s snowed a couple of times this winter before, but this was the first time it’s actually stuck on the roads. Walking on the path that winds up the small hill to the Cloisters in the snow was like being briefly transported to a winter wonderland. We didn’t get a White Christmas, but I guess this is a close second!

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The Cloisters itself is one large and austere stone building that houses authentic medieval European churches and gardens which were transplanted in the 1930s and painstakingly rebuilt. I don’t know what I was expecting to see — exhibits explaining medieval architectural practices and structures, perhaps? — but this was like being transported to through time to another sort of wonderland, one where you could walk from a 12th century Spanish church straight into a 11th century French courtyard (these dates are probably completely wrong, by the way. But you get the idea).

Even though there were much fewer visitors at the Cloisters than at the Met, it was still fairly difficult to take pictures without any people in them. So at some point, I just gave up and decided to include them.

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My favorite is the man kneeling in front of Jesus. Praying? Nope, just taking a quick picture.

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And my Dad’s favorite work of art, silver-stained glass roundels. All of the different colors are achieved by painting with different mixtures of silver and then baking the glass, thereby actually staining it (and not just painting it, which is what most “stained glass” is). Most were images of Jesus and monastic life, but let’s just take a moment to appreciate whatever is happening in that second scene down there:

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I completely did not expect something like the Cloisters to exist anywhere in the vicinity of New York City. Snow or not, it’s a magical place!

Father Christmas is No Father of Mine

posted in: Journal | 0

There are certain essential elements of childhood that every American child is expected to—even demanded to—experience. Things such as searching for Easter Eggs, crawling in the playhouse at McDonalds, posing for photos with giant, frightening Disney characters, and sitting on Santa’s lap are almost a part of the parents’ “American Dream;” it’s a baptism of sorts. Only by performing these functions will a child truly become “American,” with full access to rare educational opportunities, obesity-inducing junk food, and over exaggerated media that promotes nothing but sex—except drugs.

It was with this thought in mind (the one about education, not obesity and sex) that my mother attempted to assimilate me completely, as soon as I turned preschool age and she deemed me ready for exposure to the world of the “white people” (who, as far as I was concerned, were primitive Martians that I could only communicate with via wild hand gestures). The first step, of course, was to take me to see Santa, the epitome of American youth and the figure whose face is more familiar to five-year-olds than that of even Barney.

Yet I resented my mother’s attempt to throw me into the ominous, corroded pit of America. Like the eagle that pushes its young off mountain cliffs in the hopes that they will figure something out before bashing their brains out on the ground below, my mother intended for me to find my wings and soar higher and further than she ever had before. But I curled my fingers around the edge of the nest with my feet dangling precariously over the bottomless void, obstinately refusing to be haphazardly tossed into the hands of Martian-Americans. She was depriving me of oxygen, feeding me to ill-disguised aliens! I would stay in my nest, thanks. Who needs to fly anyway?

Unfortunately, at the age of four, I was unable to articulate my feelings via any method besides that of a tantrum, and I soon found myself sitting in the arms of the King of the Martians himself: the Santa.

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His uniform bright with the red blood of the victims before me, the Santa observes me as I stand against the crock of His elbow, His face conveniently tilted and obscured by white fluff as He contemplates whether I am fat enough to be filleted. His outstretched hand could lift me up by the torso as if I were helpless yellow basketball. Even standing on the chair upon which He sits, the top of my head barely even reaches His shoulders. Oh yes, I’d be a delicious little snack. I wouldn’t even make Him burp.

But unlike the other children whom the Santa reduced to tears with His sadistic glance, I firmly hold my ground and retain my calm against my inequitable opponent. Leaning as far back as possible against the log of an arm that holds me captive, I push against his bloated stomach with one tiny curled fist. With my lips pursed and my eyebrows raised and furrowed, I stare straight at his eyes (hidden somewhere beneath the massive white cloud of fur sprouting from his face) with a message that clearly says, “Who are you and what are you doing on MY planet?”

While I like to think that I triumphed over the Santa that day (and even walked away with a couple of treats as a mark of His ignominious surrender), the Empire that the Santa commands still surrounds me, threatening to engulf me in revenge for its King. It bombards me with images of half-nude models, TV shows dedicated to the woes of 900-pound human “wonders,” and tabloids that scream, “In this picture, Jessica Simpson is wearing a diamond wedding ring. In that one, it’s emerald—you can kind of tell by the faint-ish yellow-green glow that’s just apparent from the angle that the picture was taken in, but it could also just be the dress of the person standing behind her—and in that picture, she’s not wearing one at all. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?!?!” But still I stand, collected and aloof, looking straight into the eyes of the faceless enemy, reciting the same lines that I did on the fateful visit to Santa:

“You have got to be kidding me.”

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