Things I learned in Japan

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  • Having one card that works for all public transit in different cities is such a blessing
  • Bento boxes are amazing, because they let you try many different foods in one box
  • Japan is not a great place if you’re vegetarian (I’m not, but a friend is) – there are only a few restaurants in each city that will work out
  • Service delays for local trains do happen occasionally. In such cases, it can be difficult to leave the train station, because most of the time, the system requires you to tag in and out of your departure and arrival station in order to work.
  • Water bottles get more expensive the higher up Fushimi Inari you climb
  • Vending machines with beverages on streets are remarkably…considerate when you’re feeling thirsty.
  • The Shinkansen takes 2.3 hours to go from Tokyo to Kyoto which are 318.6 miles apart. Compare that with the Acela, which takes 3.5 hrs to get you from Boston to New York which are 214 miles apart
  • The phrase for Good Morning is exceptionally fun to say: Ohayo (Oh-hi-oh)
  • Cardholders from the US generally fare better with 7-11 ATMs than others where you’ll get an error message
  • Don’t eat too much tempura or you’ll end up with stomach problems for weeks after you get back home
  • Women sometimes wear kimonos in the summer in Kyoto when they go out
  • There are beautiful places in every corner of the universe

5 fun places for artists in SF

SF Art Institute

  • What: Free figure drawing every Friday. 5:30–8:30 pm | Studio 13
  • Why: Most spots in the city will charge you for figure drawing, so this is a pretty great deal. The room is also well-lit and atmospheric, and you get a nice view of Coit Tower if you walk around the SFAI buildings.
  • More info

23rd street studio

  • What: Also figure drawing ($18)
  • Why: Because the guy who owns this is really, really charming. He’ll invite everyone to the dining table during the long break in the middle of a session AND  bakes treats and makes everyone tea AND we’ll talk about our favorite movies from the week. On top of that, the poses that the models do here tend to be more dynamic than what I’ve seen elsewhere.
  • More info

Clay by the bay

  • What: Ceramics!
  • Why: Because their classes are great (says my friends – I haven’t been). I keep missing their classes, because of work trips
  • More info

Case for Making

  • What: Well-curated art supplies
  • Why: Because it’s really pretty, because it’s next to Trouble Coffee, because the owner has workshops during the week, because she got a commercial license like a decade ago and decided at some point that she would sell all of her favorite supplies there.
  • More info

3 fish studios

  • What: Print-making studio/store
  • Why: Because they made the print with the bear hugging the state of California piece that’s now on every other tote bag in Valencia. This is another place I haven’t been to. It’s hella far, but close to Case for Making – so recommendation would be to check them out together.
  • More info

Bent/Curved Wooden Staircases

These stairs are my Thursday morning inspiration. I love the thought that went into these designs; the architects didn’t just think about the utility of stairs but how they would shape the space around them. There’s something that feels lightweight and carefree about stairs that bend. They look sculpted rather than assembled.

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Abstract

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To abstract something is to break it down into it’s simplest form.  

Abstract: The Art of Design is a new Netflix series that showcases designers and artists in different fields. The first episode, which features illustrator Christoph Niemann, talks about the essence of creative work and abstraction – the ability to look at an object in a completely new way that helps connect the artist to the viewer.

It felt really refreshing to see a documentary that talks about the creative process. The finished piece is often not the result of some pixie dust but of just getting to your desk, sitting down and giving yourself time to explore the right solution.

I highly recommend it to all designers and artists – regardless of what field you’re in. Below (and above) are some of Christoph’s artwork:

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Humans through Satellite Imagery

Google Earth’s satellite imagery has recently gotten a lot better. As you get a more complete view of the world, you can start to uncover the world in new ways. I found myself deeply immersed in it one day – first by zooming to Cairo, then to Dubai, then to the rest of the world, gravitating towards geometric shapes that we’ve built and repeated, among the rectangular tiles of green and yellow that we’ve designed through agriculture. Humans are crazy. We’ve changed our world in a massive way  – we’ve changed its mountains, forests, grasslands and even rivers. Below is a sample of what I’ve found.

Man-made circles

More strange things

 

Words you can read from space (anyone here good at reading Chinese?)

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Repeating grids

Shapes in agriculture

Quality of Life: What Matters

I was looking at Numbeo’s quality of life index this weekend. They have different things that factor into their overall index, like climate and safety. I thought: “hey, why not see who – Boston or SF – would win if I looked at all of these objective factors (through my very subjective lens).

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Turns out, Boston does pretty well on everything except climate.

Then I decided to make my own chart with more employment-focused factors that contribute to “quality of life” for me, as a UX designer, in the bay area.

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Ok – so I’m a little biased, but I didn’t just do this to remind myself of why I moved out to San Francisco.

I did this to understand that quality of life is important. All those things that Boston wins at – those are real and I feel the difference daily when I go into the grocery store and a dozen eggs are selling for $6.99. It hurts when I pay rent every month. It’s half my take-home paycheck.

But quality of life is also dependent on many things, and most of the time the things that aren’t captured in these charts are actually the most important ones – the people we care about or choose to love and the career we choose to take.