30 June 2008

14th street bus!

Oh man, the buses that run along 14th street are so full of character.

Tonight, I was riding it back north from U street and it was PACKED. I was standing by the front door (three of us were ahead of the yellow line, but the driver let it slide). This was at a little past 11pm.
An elderly woman got on the bus a little later, sat down, then immediately started yelling at someone across from her to stop talking on his cell phone. It heated up into a loud argument in Spanish, but I gathered that she was annoyed at young people always "yakyak"-ing on the bus. She started reaching for him with her cane, smacking the guy with it as he got off at the next stop. He was still making obscene gestures at her as the bus pulled away. Everyone else was just laughing.

Not that I'm paranoid, but...

Your activity is being tracked when you're driving, using TiVo, searching on Google so that companies can better direct their advertising at you. This is nothing new, of course. But this article has a few interesting examples of which I had never heard, such as the refrigerator that tracks the brands you're purchasing.

Happy future!

29 June 2008


Ever think about how strange the Internet is? What kind of realm is this? We spend so much time "online" when we are sitting in front of our laptops... makes me think of The Onion's World of World of Warcraft. It's communication disconnected from physicality. Huh. I have an uneasiness about inhabiting a body anyway. Maybe it's easier to focus on the mental output rather than the coordination of all areas. No one's watching you when you're online, except of course for the government, aliens, etc etc, so you're not being judged as harshly. Strange and inbred.

There was a time only a few years ago when I would periodically take breaks from the Internet (go offline for, say, a week or two). I can't imagine doing that for more than a couple days now. I'm in deep. Attempting to maintain a regular blog doesn't help, ha!

26 June 2008

Extolling the virtues of the reusable grocery bag.

Reusable bags. A topic very close to my heart, because I spend so much time bagging groceries.

They aren't limited to the handled bags sold at the grocery, your own backpack or canvas tote bag is as good. Even bringing back the "disposable" (okay, I detest this description but that's another topic altogether) bags is better than getting new ones on every grocery trip. According to TreeHugger, the average plastic shopping bag is only used for 20 minutes and takes at least 500 years to degrade.

Do not get discouraged and believe that your action will get lost in the world of overconsumption. There is a growing movement towards greening one's lifestyle. In the past few years - okay, even just in the past several months! - I have noticed more grocery stores selling reusable bags and offering incentives for using them, usually something like 5 cents taken off the bill. They cost about a dollar each, so if you use them regularly they pay for themselves. Reusable grocery bags are now available in most mainstream supermarkets such as Giant, Safeway, and Harris Teeter. It works for them because it saves some money and gets them free advertising, too.

Working in a grocery store, I see that every week more people start reusing bags. It's really a snowball effect here. The more people bringing along their bags, the more visible this option becomes, and the more it becomes the norm. I actually get customers stepping up to my register with their food and apologizing for forgetting their shopping bag. The guilt isn't necessary, but it's definitely positive that bringing one's bag is more expected.
We go through so many paper/plastic bags each day, it is unbelievable. So every person who brings their bags is helping. Hey, it's not the end-all and be-all, but it is a simple change to make. Because remember this: reduce and reuse before recycling! Just a note from your friendly grocery store worker.

25 June 2008

Ranking enviro-friendliness of transport.

So, I've not got much time, but let's start this off anyway.
What's the most environmentally sound method of travel in DC?

Obviously holding top position is walking or cycling. Both are zero-emissions and you can go anywhere you need to if it isn't too far, or if you have the endurance for it.

Riding a bicycle is much faster than walking, and though the current condition of roads is far from perfect for cyclists, DC's working on improving the situation. The Washington Area Bicyclist Association announced not too long ago that DC was named by Bicycling Magazine as most improved bicycling city in America. There are many exciting improvements planned, and surely more as others pick up some human-powered wheels!
It's a good idea to ride the bike lanes when possible, even if it puts you a bit out of your way. Some roads are just not fun to ride - potholes, dense traffic, poor visibility... fortunately, the DC Department of Transportation puts out a map that charts which roads have been rated in terms of bikeability (yes, probably made that word up). It's a good resource, check it out.

However, there's the added benefit of being able to take in one's surroundings when you walk. You can't exactly take photos when you're riding, and stopping someplace for a drink means dismounting and finding a place to lock up your bike. But it's fun! And it's great exercise!
Yes, and there are others which you may prefer: skateboarding, rollerblading, street luging - is this legal in DC? even possible in flat downtown? I take pause here.

So, use your head and use your legs.

24 June 2008

Nocturnalism, night buzz, fresh mornings.

Walked home last night [after several cups of coffee - buzzbuzz] on sidewalks emptied of their daylight activity, the few lone wanderers illuminated briefly under street lamps, houses heavy under the weight of sleep... Nice having a coffeehouse within a mile's walk that is open late. On a perpetual search for more caffeine-infused late-night spots! ...gosh, I gotta kick it.

Living here in an actual neighborhood rather than the sterile, self-contained, downtown campus environment is refreshing. Because up north in Columbia Heights, people spend lazy Sundays sitting out with neighbors, and couples drink coffee on their porch in the early morning hours with their dog. The parking spaces clear up on the street in front when those with cars leave for work, only to be claimed a few hours later when technicians and maintenance workers arrive to fix pipes, fertilize yards. Friends gather in clumps to socialize loudly, leaning on car doors and chain-smoking cigarettes. And sometimes you can catch them, the stray cats that slink around, picking through scraps and sneaking through fences.

23 June 2008

Pace of life.

One striking difference I've encountered in my travels (which admittedly are fairly limited and privileged) is the wide range of living pace amongst people occupying different parts of the world, different countries, different cities or towns.

As one who has lived in the DC Metropolitan area my entire life, I find that I'm overwhelmed by places such as New York where trends burst into life and fizz out before even reaching the other end of the city. NYC's loud, brash, and doesn't seem to stop. How does anyone get a chance to catch their breath? I've got city energy, for sure, but I consider NYC more a place to spend a weekend partying rather than a place to settle in. Strut your stuff there, make home elsewhere.

I'd really like to find a city that's centered around living with respect to others and to the earth, one that prefers local businesses to chain stores but maybe offers both. My cousin suggests that Portland, where she has spent the last six years, would suit me. I should find out.

22 June 2008

Fast cars and drugs.

Going back to visit my parents in the wealthy suburban area they inhabit became a bit bleak when I started thinking about how tragic it is that so many teenagers find themselves victim of the restlessness that they channel into racing their expensive sports cars, and burning through a huge amount of their parents money to fuel their drug habits. Indeed, these are separate problems. But I believe they're both rooted in the same cause... the burn-out, the numbing that comes from a life of hazy excess.

These are the kids I saw in high school driving too fast just for something to do, spending money simply to kill the time, popping painkillers and always always smoking. "Nothing to do," the mantra and the excuse for doing nothing worthwhile. Too many students' lives cut short by it. Hell, multiple preventable deaths of my high school peers should not have occurred in the few short years I spent there. No wonder we hated high school. That's the pressure to escape, because every single person that stayed is now working a dead-end job, unhappy, or addicted... at least that's how it seems. Seemed. It's why we invented so many terrible nicknames for our town, in reference to the wealth-flaunting we came to resent and embrace simultaneously. Or to distance ourselves from everything that was associated with the place, a "yeah I'm living here, no I would not be if I had had a choice." There we are: none of us had a choice, and those who did got out.

And I'm feeling myself more and more a product of that world of apathy, the world of feeling and emotion reduced to dollar signs - never clear in the head, moving too much, stumbling over all my words. My new focus is to reset my focus. I could learn a lot from mucking around in my memories.
I'm young but I have my starting-point. Know the saying, "nip the problem in the bud"? Yeah, I am so relieved that I recognize this vacancy.

21 June 2008

Outsider status on multiple levels.

I have always inhabited a sort of observer position in most spheres through which I have passed. With my family, it is becoming more and more apparent that I feel out of step with my Korean culture, as I was raised by American culture - television, day care, video games. In my elementary school I was not only a minority - I could literally count the number of kids with Asian descent on one hand.
Often, it just sucks. Try as you might to elevate it into the highest form of learning cultural tolerance, but as a being coming to age it is maddeningly difficult. Especially in a society such as we have here in the United States, which is often ill-defined as it is.
Find one's place amongst the multiple blurry groupings? A task to make all else seem laughable. I wish I knew.

20 June 2008

Rising from the dead city.

Hello! A new blog as a renewed attempt to capture the essence of being, in all places, in snippets of thought put to words, in those fleeting moments throughout the day. Embracing new ideas and mediums. We'll see how it goes. I'd like to discipline myself by regularly updating this.

Possible feature idea: French Form Friday. That's today.

...Mais aujourd'hui, je n'ai pas assez de temps pour une dissertation propre. Je pars pour mon travail maintenant!