Thursday, May 26, 2016

Death of shoes

In memoriam: five pairs of shoes and a handbag that have served me well throughout college. And now their watch is ended. I'm trying to think critically about my belongings, lifestyle, and habits. Materialism, consumerism, my relationship with the things I own and use, etc, etc.

Clockwise from upper left: H & M black faux suede ankle boots, Converse, H & M brown faux leather brogues, black canvas martial arts shoes, Zigi Soho Fantasy brown leather boots

In cleaning out my apartment and moving out this week, I finally put to rest some shoes that I wore during college that have done their duty and died. The point of this post isn't really to shame myself for how shabby I wore these shoes, but rather to compile some lessons I've learned through them. I have seldom seen reviews for garments, shoes, or accessories well into their lifetime, much less at the end of them. I have learned a thing or two about shoe construction from these ones and I hope this post will be a cautionary tale for those who look to buy cheap shoes.

Before I get to the reviews, a note: I tend to wear one pair of shoes for weeks on end. This is unwise. There is value in letting shoes "rest" after each wear, and I am hoping to add another pair of shoes into my wardrobe come autumn so I can extend the lifespans of all those I own.

  • Black faux suede ankle boots from H & M - $20 (50% from $40) - Nov. 2013 to Dec. 2015 - these shoes were actually quite comfortable and good for walking up and down the hills of UC Berkeley campus. Problems occurred in the following order: discoloration of the material from black to a hideous purple, deformation of the metal toe pieces, heel wear, sole wear. During the autumn and winter, I wore this shoe about 75% of the time, even though it is not rainproof. I like the look of a black ankle boot, and see that this boot has design ancestry in the famous Dickers by Isabel Marant, but suede is not for me. I looked a long time for a replacement pair of black ankle boots, but never got around to buying them. In its final season, these boots were seriously affecting my gait and causing pain in my knees and thighs. I wore them far past their intended lifespan to the point where the heel was worn to metal nails and the sole at the ball of my foot worn to membrane thin.
  • Black Converse sneakers - ~$20 from Marshalls - May 2013 to Aug. 2013 - I wore Converse all through middle school and high school as my default shoe. I went through them one at a time, purchasing whatever dark color was available at a cut price from Marshalls. This was my first that was not of the classic design, but rather has a strange cuff around the ankle. These were monsters to walk in, and I limped through the summer before giving up. They lived on our apartment's shoe stand until I donated them today.
  • Black canvas martial arts shoes - $15? - Aug. 2013 to Dec. 2014 - I stopped wearing these when I stopped doing martial arts. One of these has a crack running across the sole, and though the local co-op residents had taken these up for fashionable, I wouldn't wear them outside of wushu practice. The Chinese person's gear is the white hipster's fashion statement against capitalist pigs, right? Anyways, they're trashed, but I'm bringing them with me to med school to wear during gross anatomy.

  • Brown faux leather brogues from H&M - $20 - May 2012 to Sep. 2012 - How H&M hurts me! The heel for one of these came clean off and was lost in a friend's car on my third wear of these. Like an idiot, I kept on wearing them in spite of discomfort, to the point where the rest of the shoe started coming apart. However, I did learn that I liked the look of non-boot leather shoes, though I still think the brogue or Oxford style is a bit too dandy for me.
  • Brow leather ankle boots from Zigi Soho - $50 (from Marshalls) - Sep. 2013 to Jan. 2015 - I really liked these shoes, but the heel just wore down too quickly and was coming to bits. This isn't so much a problem with the quality of the shoe, but for my tendency to wear them weeks and weeks on end without respite, to not look after them, and to be irresponsible. No close-ups of the heels, but I assure you they are very worn on the lateral edges. Funnily enough, we had a discussion about this in my orthopaedic biomechanics class in Fall 2014 during our homework about gait, and it turns out this wear pattern is normal. The photo is a bit overexposed, but the aging of the leather looked pretty nice, and the uppers looked good. Note that the stitching came apart on the toe. Overall, I like this style of boot and hope to find something similar in darker brown later on.
  • Brown faux leather satchel from H&M - $24 - Nov. 2011 to Dec. 2014 - I had this as my only handbag in this period and it has served me well. Since its retirement, I've used it as a storage place for important documents and items, but now it's time for it to go. It's a good size and shape, but began peeling not quite one year after I purchased it. I do want a satchel like this in the future, but of course in real leather and from a brand I feel comfortable throwing money at.
Long story short, I'm trashing all but the Converse (donated) and the wushu shoes. None of the others can be reasonably worn by another person at all, and I have foolishly tried to push them beyond their expiration to decrease cost per wear and avoid buying a replacement. Heel wear patterns are consistent with neutral, normal gait, but wearing overly deformed shoes will have negative consequences. Finally, there is no point in striving for a minimal shoe collection for the bragging rights of being minimal, when there is value in cycling between pairs.

My goal in medical school then is to wisely and deliberately grow my shoe collection by slowly incorporating high quality, reliable pieces. So: more wardrobe planning and more research. Now, I'm done.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

I missed out on visiting the original before it was torn down (on Bancroft Ave) and didn't get around to visiting the newly constructed BAM/PFA when it first opened. I regret not taking advantage of it sooner, as admission is free for UC Berkeley students. Here are some photos of my favorite exhibits.

The World Garden - Qiu Zhijie - 2016

Model of Endless House - Frederick Kiesler - 1959

Left: Portrait of Fidelma (Interior Landscape) - Pavel Tchelitchew - 1947
Right: Schenes from the life of Buddha Shakyamuni - Central Tibet - 12th century

Left: Hevajra mandalas - Tibet - 14th century
Right: Four mandalas of Hevajra - Tibet - 16th century

Left: Teaching Buddha - Gandhara, Pakistan - 2nd - 3rd century
Right: The Great Departure -  Gandhara, Pakistan - 2nd - 3rd century

Left: Seated Buddha - Tibet - 14th century
Right: Stupa - Khmer, Cambodia, Bayon style - 13th century

Center: The Quartered One - Louise Bourgeois - 1964-5
Right: Fée Couturière - Louise Bourgeois - 1963

Pomo baskets - Pomo people, northern California, no date

Untitled - Ruth Asawa - 1953 - 1965

Left: Proposal: A Geodesic Hangar, Plan Projection, Geodesic Dome, Diamonds of Fiberglass Laminate - Buckminster Fuller - 1951
Right: Mother in Metamorphosis Idolized/The Kathredal (A glimpse of Heaven's intermediate grandeur) - A. G. Rizzoli - 1938

Interesting personal connection: my mother was involved in the discovery of Buckminsterfullerenes (bucky-balls), carbon nanostructures that resemble Buckminster Fuller's geodesic domes. My mother and other graduate students were not credited in the Nature paper, nor acknowledged in the Nobel Prize for their work. 

Latin Studies - Al Taylor - 1985

Wow! Signal - Jerry R. Ehman, SETI, Ohio State University - 11:16 PM EDST, August 15, 1977

The most popular exhibit on Instagram and Facebook from peers that visited BAM/PFA. Leave it to STEM majors to find this piece of astronomy history. This snip of narrowband radio signal has extraterrestrial and non-solar characteristics. As usual, link out to Wikipedia.

"Home-for-All" in Rikuzentakata - Toyo Ito, Kumiko Inui, Sou Fujimoto, Akihisa Hirata - 2012

Origin of the Species - Ben Rivers - 2008

There is a film projected into the shack that I watched about a minute of: woodlands, the shack, etc.

Left: Untitled - Gordon R. Ashby - 1971
Right: Plate decorated with rustic figures - Bernard Palissy - 1550 - 1600

Within, S. W. S. - Avery Preesman - 2008-9

Tomás Saraceno - 2015

I am fond of spiders and almost missed this exhibit on my way out. These are spider webs from various species.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Other people's gardens

A specimen of Genus Echeveria. Very fitting considering how much time I spent in Etcheverry Hall during college.

During the last two weeks, I found myself with an absurd amount of time on my hands. All my projects had been submitted, I was sufficiently secure in both my classes with final exams, and I had no urgent tasks. I used this newfound time to go to the gym, read for leisure, and take long walks in the hills north of campus, making sure to stop and admire the flowers.

Berkeley is a town of contrasts. In the north, houses are large and with personality. Architecture is clever, hills are steep, and gardens are lavish and just a bit wild. The North Berkeley hills, edging into Tilden Park and the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, are easy to get lost and get tired in. Fortunately, this is my neighborhood, and I am acquainted with it.

I am a frequent recommender and visitor of the UC Botanical Gardens, which is uphill from the southeast end of campus, but sometimes, that's a hassle to get to, with very uniform views on the hike up. The northside hills are an easy getaway from the College of Engineering, and beautiful gardens and interesting houses, tucked-away side streets and terraces are quick to encounter. 

It may be easy to tell that these photos come from different hikes: different weather, different times of day. I'm collecting "specimens" for if I ever want to paint botanical still life in the future.

Though I don't think I'll have the space for a garden in my near future, all this wandering and stopping to admire other people's gardens has inspired me. What I don't think I can communicate through these photos, but seems very clear to me just walking through the neighborhood, is that North Berkeley's gardens give it an air of mystery and magic. Given the terrain, plain lawns are uncommon. Flowers are more elegant and ornate, with strange colors. Irises, daffodils, roses, and succulents are heavily featured.

These lovely ones are downhill on the northwest end of Berkeley.  I messed around on VSCO because I am challenged by lighting, but I tried to represent the color as accurately as I saw them.

Carpets of succulents from two ends of northside. The one on the right comes from the same garden as the Echeveria featured above.

This stretch of sidewalk is actually a deliberate garden. Many of the plants are labeled, and there are notices about his landlord forbidding him from keeping this exotic garden. He is the owner of the succulent garden on the left in the preceding picture.

There is a public rose garden on northside as well, where rarer, more elegant cultivars are grown and shown. Among them are the yellow and white bicolor roses on the right, and a pink and yellow variety not shown here.

Houses near the rose garden often have their own roses as well. Rose Street nearby has a terraced, staircase path lined with roses. Lots of roses, roses everywhere, etc.

Yet more roses, the ones on the left close to my apartment, the ones on the right from the Berkeley Rose Garden.

And lastly, one of my favorite gardens in Berkeley, located a stone's throw away from the original Peet's Coffee & Tea. I make it a point to encounter this extraterrestrial and its spacecraft (with a "BERKELEY OR BUST" bumper sticker) when I walk to the supermarket. This is one of the many oddities about this strange town that I will miss.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Nest Citrine and Verde | Fragrance Review

I will take a moment of awestruck silence to appreciate the impeccable, the exquisite perfection of the Nest fragrance packaging. This is the marriage of the dark, pensive, and utterly enchanting floral/botanical paper mosaics of 18th century British artist Mary Delany and the sophisticated, sleek design  and aesthetic inclinations of Nest. Look at this beauty. Revel in it. Dream of it.

As that raving may suggest, I was very taken with the packaging, and so convinced that the potions within would convey the dark beauty of the imagery without. I was very afraid that I would love the fragrance and the bottle so much as to buy a full size. Instead, I got free samples, and I will review them below.

Citrine eau de parfum

"The dewy softness of lotus flower and freesia are set against sparkling citrus notes and hints of precious woods.
Notes: Lemon Blossom, Lotus Flower, Freesia, Dew Drop Accord, Precious Woods. 
Style: Bright. Refreshing. Sparkling." - Nest

What is that plant (suspiciously similar to French broom, and certainly not a note) doing on this packaging, other than to look pretty? This scent is lovely, sunny, and effervescent. It's fresh and it's lively, but certainly not a complex fragrance. Perhaps my skin gobbles up light florals with citrus notes, but Citrine is, unfortunately, a simple little scent, something that would be wonderful as a candle or a diffuser in a sun-drenched room. Sillage and longevity are minimal.

Verde - eau de parfum

"Exceptionally fresh and green, this woody scent is a true departure from a floral fragrance. Capture the crisp essences of wild fern and Himalayan cedar combined with verbena leaves and vetiver.
Notes: Wild fern, Himalayan Cedar, Verbena Leaves and Vetiver
Style: Fresh" - Nest

The solemn ferns suggest a fougere, and I was hoping for deep, dreamy woods. I like green scents, but found unfortunately that Verde was not to my taste. A traditional fougere ("fern-like") has top notes of lavender and fern, and is grounded by oakmoss and tonka bean, and is supposedly a unisex or masculine fragrance. Without these notes, Verde was all simple greenery, and reminded me much more of men's deodorant than a mysterious forest. However, unlike screaming green ultra sweat control deodorant, Verde was gone in a snap, with neither sillage nor longevity. The verbena yielded to the ferns on the dry-down, and fortunately, I could detect no vetiver. I wanted to love Citrine and Verde, but it was not meant to be!