- America Is Overrun With Bathrooms
An ode to the North American bathroom. Interesting to think about the cultural impact of this because you don’t really realize it is an issue.
You might think that we have already reached Peak Bathroom. But the super-rich have other ideas. Last year, The Wall Street Journal reported on a Bel Air, California, home that listed for $49.9 million. It featured eight bedrooms—and 20 bathrooms. By any rational assessment, this is a ludicrous use of money, space, and plumbing. But the U.S. housing market is rarely restrained by rationality. Indeed, the share of houses with 10 or more bathrooms has doubled in the past decade. It would seem that the richest 0.01 percent of Americans are spending down their fortunes in an arms race for toilets.
- This Boy From Mumbai Became the World’s Unlikeliest Crossword King
Crossword King is hyperbole, but it is true that crosswords are actually deeply rooted in culture and hard for non-Americans to break into (also I never realized Crosswords were so firmly rooted in the US).
“I would say he is very rare,” Will Shortz, the legendary crossword editor at The New York Times and director of the annual crossword tournament, wrote in an email. Shortz confirmed that, with the exception of American-born expats, and puzzlers who were born elsewhere but raised in the U.S. or Canada, no other non-North American has ever had a puzzle published in the Times.
“It is difficult for a non-American to make – or even solve – American crosswords, because they’re so full of American culture,” Shortz says. “You would have to understand American life and society and English as Americans speak it in order to master our puzzles.”
- How Fast Food Reveals Secrets of the Economy
Economists use food as a measure of how the country is doing? Surprise, surprise.
In 1980, a New Yorker called Eric Bram noticed that the price of a slice of pizza had matched the cost of a subway ride in the city for nearly 20 years. More recently, commentators have noticed that as the cost of pizza goes up, transit fares often follow. In 2014, data scientist Jared Lander investigated the principle and found that it remains in place. Why is this so? Nobody knows.
- Doing Western students’ homework is big business in Kenya
It’s easy to read about the effective of buying essays for students, but have you ever wondered what the business is like for those writing the essays?
Two years ago, Philemon bought an account for $800 — about 80,000 Kenyan shillings. The account was well-established with more than 200 completed homework assignments and a high rating. The account gives Philemon a better chance at bidding on more expensive, highly rated or more rigorous homework assignments, and allows him to subcontract out the work.
- How Under Armour Lost Its Edge
I never connected with the Under Amour brand. Somehow it just didn’t seem cool to me. Now, even knowing that they were technical-focused, it hasn’t change my opinion on them.
From its early days, Under Armour made its mark as a tech-focused sports apparel company. It didn’t just make clothes for athletes; it made clothes that aimed to improve their performance. Beginning with its first product, a T-shirt that wicked away sweat, Under Armour redefined the category, from its HeatGear and ColdGear fabrics in the late 1990s to, more recently, sleepwear intended to help athletes recover from a big game.
We were deep in LEGO this month. Not sure why as we didn’t receive any lego kits over Christmas. I guess it was a mix of having a lot of time, having sorted the lego blocks so it was easier to make things, and me playing the LEGO Legacy Heroes game. I’ve also gotten a bit bored of the Disney game – I’ve played it for about 18 months so I guess that is the lifetime of these types of games.
We had some winter-esque snowfall through the month. I thought the snow would stay around and cover the ground until fall but we had a couple of days that was near 0°C, so the snow evaporated/melted away. In November, the weather people predicted a cold/snowy winter. In December, they updated their prediction to be a mild one. I don’t know what it ended up actually being.
I didn’t do any work travel this month, so it’s been almost three months! I was supposed to have travel at the beginning of February but that got cancelled due to Coronavirus and other reasons. The plans to travel messed up our Chinese New Year plans as I was supposed to fly out on the second Saturday. We ended up doing our CNY stuff on the last Saturday of January which was small and done with quickly.
- The Cosmic Crisp apple is not the future
Following up on my previous post about the new technological advance in apples – an actual food review of the Cosmic Crisp. Now I wonder if I am obsessed enough to actually seek one out at a US grocery store?
The most curious trait of the Cosmic Crisp is the sound it produces upon taking a bite. It is the platonic ideal of a crunchy apple; Foley artists supposedly record bites of other fruits, like bell peppers and onion, to imitate an apple crunch in film, and indeed, the Cosmic Crisp’s crunch sounds ripped from a sound library.
Another aspiration article about the US, this one talks about the new American Dream mall in New Jersey. It might be a destination on a road trip in the future!
After 15 years in development, the project’s attractions are finally lighting up one by one, connected by networks of vast, unfilled corridors. In addition to Big Snow, there is a National Hockey League-sized ice rink, a Nickelodeon Universe theme park, and a dusting of retail: a Big Snow ski shop, an IT’SUGAR candy department store and a Whoopi Goldberg-themed pop-up shop selling her collections of ugly holiday sweaters and chic tunics. Teased future reveals include a DreamWorks water park, a Legoland, a Vice-branded “Munchies” food hall, a KidZania play land featuring a full commercial airliner and a field hopping with live rabbits.
- The Secret Travel Club That’s Been Everywhere
All those stories about the first explorers to the North Pole or Everest, well they belonged to this club which has a clubhouse in NYC. It sounds like a place that you see in the movies (like Hellboy).
Its illustrious list of current, historical and honourary members includes Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, who first summited Mt Everest; aviator Charles Lindbergh, who made the first solo transatlantic airplane flight in 1927; Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl who sailed his hand-built balsawood raft, the Kon-Tiki, from Peru to Polynesia; famed pilot Amelia Earhart who disappeared in the Pacific; Apollo astronauts, including Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong, the first men on the Moon; record-breaking deep-sea diver Sylvia Earle; British paleoanthropologist Mary Leakey, who discovered 15 new species of animal; Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos; Titanic film director and deep-sea explorer James Cameron; and primatologist Dame Jane Goodall, considered the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees. The list is mind-boggling.
- Why the French Don’t Show Excitement
Originally I thought this story was from an American viewpoint, but now I see that it is British. I wonder if it is just a jab at both the US and the French at being too excited or too apathetic?
“I used to judge Americans because I thought they were always too ecstatic, always having disproportionate reactions,” he told me years later, though now, he added, “I feel like I have two worlds in my head, one in French and one in English. I feel like the English world is a lot more fun than the French one.”
- Uber’s Secret Restaurant Empire
I’ve thought about this many times, that restaurants should just stop offering sit downs and just focus on pure food delivery. Looks like I’m late because this was already discussed in 2018.
Brooklyn Burger Factory is located in the kitchen of Gerizim Cafe & Ice Cream, a small establishment on Ralph Avenue. There used to be only a couple of unspectacular burgers on the menu at Gerizim Cafe, and only about one a day sold, according to co-owner Joel Farmer.
But the data team at Uber Eats perceived a demand for gourmet burgers in the area, and they approached Farmer about the possibility of expanding the selection. Farmer liked the idea; most of the raw ingredients were already on hand. The Brooklyn Burger Factory has been such a success—it’s now selling as many as 75 burgers a day, with revenue 28 times that of Gerizim Cafe—that Farmer is changing the name of the entire operation.
I’ll be honest, the only reason I watched Exit was because I knew about it beforehand. And the only reason I knew about it was that it starred YoonA from Girls Generation. Exit is about a useless Millennial son whose hobby is climbing. Coincidentally, there is a disaster and his skill saves him. His friend from his climbing group also ends up at the same place that he is in when disaster strikes so they get to work together.
This movie is pretty bad. I guess it is either a comedy or a frank look at Korean families and their culture. Either way, there is a lot of cringe worthy moments. Both leads were also bad at portraying their roles. The only thing that saves the movie from being turned off were the climbing scenes. Even though you knew the outcome would be OK, you were still hanging on by your fingertips to see what would happen. I guess this is like the award winning Free Solo except told through a fictional story.
I would skip this one, two out of five stars.
I think The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was a show from the 70s or 80s that I was never familiar with. Nevertheless, it held the most interest to me from the other movies that were available on my flight.
The story is about a US spy who ends up working together with a Russian spy in order to save the world. Naturally, this happened during the cold war (JFK was president) and it was a case of your enemy’s enemy being your friend. Surprisingly, that concept was still fresh. I felt the movie was pretty stylish. It didn’t have any fancy gadgets like Bond. It wasn’t cheesy like Austin Powers. And each culture played up their stereotypes (US superpower was apparently charisma and Russian was brute force). Like the newish Kingsmen series, this movie had its own special style that was entertaining.
Henry Cavil played the US agent, a similar role to what he did in Mission Impossible: Fallout. Except this time he was the shorter guy. Still can’t stop thinking of Superman when I see him. I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel but this movie was released in 2015 so that seems unlikely now. Three out of five stars.
I remember wanting to watch V for Vendetta when it came out, but somehow missed it. This was in 2006, and way before kids, so that couldn’t be an excuse. In any case, the movie’s message is still true and relevant today.
I liked how the the plot is a mix of current day Britain, a nod to 1984, and Shakespearean – I believe the source material was this way already. Even though I liked the movie, it is just an entertaining movie and didn’t really change my world outlook (I guess too much 1984 and Fahrenheit 451). What did surprise me is that Natalie Portman is ageless. She looks the same in this as she does in Vox Lux – 13 year difference! The movie though is only 3 out of 5 stars.
December was full of not-blogging. Usually I put aside some time to write my “end of year” blogs but I didn’t feel very enthusiastic about it this year – I just did the places I stayed (it was easy) and top music (I still care about this) ones. Maybe I will do the year end recap at some point in January.
We also skipped out on a lot of Christmas activities this year because we went down to Nashville over the holidays. In fact, now that I am writing this blog after our trip; I don’t really recall what happened earlier in December.
I do know that we did all of our gift buying and prep in the few weeks beforehand. Most of the gift giving is actually for the kids’ teachers. The kids themselves don’t receive that many gifts anymore. In fact this year, we made them wait until we came back from our trip to open their presents (to their chagrin).
Weather wasn’t too bad after a horrendous November. But again, my memory could be tinted from the t-shirt weather of Nashville!
사계 (Four Seasons) – 태연 (Taeyeon)
Usually, the Taeyeon song is at the top of my list because of her singing, but this song is catchy by itself!
Boyfriend – Ariana Grande & Social House
Not an Ariana Grande fan, but this song is the best duet of the year, with interesting melodies and singing.
Blinding Lights – The Weeknd
I started watching Stranger Things and this song seems like it should be part of that soundtrack. The Weeknd moves from his Michael Jackson-inspired 80s sound to New Wave-esque electronic. I like it! and I don’t think it’s just because it’s a late entry in the year.
Higher Love – Kygo & Whitney Houston
I guess how you should think of this song is that it is a remix of an old Whitney Houston song. I’ve never been interested in Kygo’s other music, so it’s really the sample that gets the attention from me.
Memories – Maroon 5
This year, I really tried to like artists like Lauv and Troye Sivan, and I can just say that I don’t really like their style of music. This song seems to be in the same style but sung by Adam Levine. Maybe I just don’t like the sound of the other artists.
블루밍 (Blueming) – 아이유 (IU)
This title track from her EP is much different than all of the other tracks. It is straight up Pop, and feels like a stylistic successor to last year’s single Bbi Bbi (although it won’t be as long lasting). Also, what is a “Blueming”?
챈슬러 (Angel) – Chancellor ft 태연 (Taeyeon)
This year, I was a lot less interested in KPop. I guess the phase is over. In any other year, if I found this song, I would say that it is a niceslow jam, but this year I only listened to it because of the feature.
Senorita – Shawn Mendes & Camilla Cabello
This is probably my kids’ favorite song of the year. It’s not bad of a duet, but is not as great as Ariana Grande’s.
Don’t Start Now – Dua Lipa
Between this and her Calvin Harris track from a few years back, looks like Dua Lipa’s niche are dance tracks. I’m fine with that. This is a solid hit but nothing that can elevate it to a higher tier.
춘천가는 기차 (A Train to Chuncheon) – 태연 (Taeyeon)
New remake of an old song I never heard of, with some electronic tinges. Another notch in Taeyeon’s discography but nothing to get too excited about.
Sucker – Jonas Brothers
At the beginning of the year, there weren’t a lot of songs so this was the top pick for its catchy hook. But the song is really just the hook and once you’ve heard it enough times, it…sucks.
Here is the annual tradition of where I spent my nights in 2019:
- Toronto, ON, Canada
- Las Vegas, NV, USA
- San Jose, CA, USA
- Seoul, South Korea
- Orlando, FL, USA
- Somewhere in the oceans around The Bahamas
- Nashville, TN, USA
Shortest list since I’ve been keeping track. Mostly due to fewer vacations/road trips and less diversity in work travel.
We bought a new car! Our old car was bought in 2007, so 12 years ago, and has over 200k KM on it. That’s actually not a lot considering there were many years during its lifetime where we didn’t drive it to work. Anyways, the transmission was dying so it was time for a new one.
It started snowing early in November this year. At least I thought it was early, but the news broadcast reminded me that it actually snowed in October last year. The first snow was just a sprinkling and melted during the day. But the week after that, we had a real storm with 15cm dumped on us. We had to hurry to rake all the leaves before they were covered by the snow! Then there was a week of warmish weather, and we are back to leaves being blown around in the wind with no snow at all on the ground.
I played a lot of Hearthstone with Battlegrounds being released. Actually I played it for about 2 weeks non-stop, then just kinda stopped as there was no more variety. I also started a new LEGO gatcha game, which may take the place of the Disney game I am playing (almost finished collecting everything worthwhile).