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July 2017 in Photos

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In July, I fulfilled a dream to visit Iceland. Every day was an unbelievable adventure and I’d see something I had never seen before. To see Iceland means to take to the road – there is one road that goes all the way around the island called the Ring Road. The landscape changes as you drive, from lush greens to dusty biomorphic shapes that reminded me of an endless Yayoi Kusama exhibit (upon closer inspection it was lichen growing everywhere) to dusty desert landscapes to waterfalls carving their way down mountains to glaciers appearing as a sudden patch of white in the distance. I was in a constant state of amazement at the primal geological wonder that is Iceland. It’s pretty much impossible to take a bad photo there.

1) The massive Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon which runs 100 meters deep and 2 kilometers long.  2) I could not believe the size of Gulfoss. For size reference, look at the left hand side of this photo for the people. And rainbows! They’re not big deal there.  3) Dettifoss, possibly the most powerful waterfall in Europe. And you can walk right up to it as you can with many sights in Iceland.  4) Walking on a glacier tongue, feeling how small we are on this Earth. Our guide told us that the glacier has shrunk in the past 20 years though.  5) Jökulsárlón, where glacier pieces that break off get marooned in this calm lagoon.

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June 2017 in Photos

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1) I’m now the proud owner of a Lucy Sparrow piece from her “8 ’till Late” installation in New York. She recreated a bodega out of felt and all the goods were for sale. It was fun and whimsical. It closed nine days early because people bought up all the art. I’m glad I got to see it. As the grandchild of grocery store owners, I loved it. I especially loved that she had Whatchamacallits on offer because those seemed rare to me — it wasn’t just any old place that carried them — and I ate a lot of them at my grandparents’ store.  2) Rainbow cupcakes! These were for a kid’s birthday party, but they’re also appropriate for Pride. 3) I love the bright hues of bougainvillea. These were in San Francisco.  4) The interior of Pels Pies in Brooklyn. Good pies and charming interior with a pressed tin ceiling and plants galore in the window. Oh, and the wallpaper!  5) The cozy Kelly Writers House on the University of Pennsylvania campus.

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May 2017 in Photos

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1) Compost bin for a flower shop in San Francisco Chinatown.  2) Perks of working from home: treating myself to Humphry Slocombe’s vietnamese iced coffee ice cream on a warm day.  3) Parts of a McFish, after some time in the fridge. (Yes, I put a Filet-O-Fish in the fridge because it was two for $6 and one was already $5 and I couldn’t eat two.)  6) Lunch at Tay Ho, Oakland Chinatown. Garlic noodles with chicken skewers and an appetizer plate. I love that appetizer plate — all sorts of goodness.

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April 2017 in Photos

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These photos were taken in early April when I took a road trip to Manzanar National Historic Site, the former internment camp, to write this essay for NPR. 1) Vacancy sign in Cartago, CA along U.S. Route 395. I had to drive the southern route from the San Francisco Bay Area because the northern route was impassable due to a storm. This added 2 hours to the drive. (Total drive time: about 8 hours).  2) Recreation of a guard tower at Manzanar. There had been eight.  3) The remains of what was once a garden at Manzanar. Residents built gardens to make the camp seem a little more normal.  4) Offerings by the Manzanar cemetery and monument.  5) The post office in Independence, CA, the closest inhabited area to Manzanar, about six miles north.

to swim is to endure

To Swim is to Endure: On Living with Chronic Pain

I have a personal essay on Catapult about my relationship to swimming and how it helps me get through chronic headaches and writer’s block. This essay has been many months in the making. Though part of me is wary of putting something so personal out in the world, I’m thrilled to be in Catapult. If you don’t know it, be sure to spend some time on there. The site is full of great writing.

art by Ellen Orseck / image via brad, flickr

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A Review of Writer and Journalist Portfolio Sites

After a decade-long break from journalism, I returned to the field and realized that I needed a better-looking online portfolio. I’ve been keeping links to my writing clips on this website, but it’s rather text heavy. I tried adding one image per story, but the page looked rather disorganized since it’s essentially an article format with images and story descriptions piled up vertically one after the other. So, I explored portfolio sites out there for writers and journalists.

What I looked for:

  • clean and organized look
  • easy for the reader to navigate
  • easy to use on the account or dashboard end
  • looks good on mobile
  • the ability to organize content by sections (say, by type of writing or by topic)

The portfolio sites I considered:

For all the sites, you can add a clip by simply entering its URL. The sites do all the work for you, grabbing the headline, an excerpt, and an image for you. (Some do a better job at this than others. I found myself having to upload images for some clips.) All of them have editable fields in case you want to change the text or upload a different image. For stories that don’t live online, you can also upload a PDF. All the sites also have spots for your social media handles.

At first I tried to get away with just looking at existing samples of these sites. But I realized that in order to truly understand how they worked, I had to sign up so I could experience it myself first hand.

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February 2017 in Photos

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1) A tree grows by street construction, San Francisco.  2) I’ve tried many times to take a photo of this building, preferably without a bin in front. But there’s always a bin in front. John F. Kennedy Towers, San Francisco.  3) How I get started working on my annual lunar new year cards.

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Resistance Rooster

Five years ago, I started making cards to send to friends for the lunar new year. I started in 2013, Year of the Snake, cutting snakes by hand out of colorful, patterned scrap paper.

As my mailing list grew, it became unrealistic to make each card by hand. So in the Year of the Horse, I decided to make a drawing and send it off to a printer. By draw, I mean stick figures. Over the years, I’ve learned what kind of paper stock I should print on (not uncoated matte stock, which gets beat up in the mail) and I picked up a small water color kit too.

Here’s last year’s postcard for Year of the Monkey:

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This year, I didn’t feel like making a card. I wasn’t feeling celebratory because of the election results and the combination of anger and anxiety I’ve been feeling every day since. But my partner convinced me that we should make a card, even though they would be late. And then I came up with an idea I was excited about: a giant fire-breathing rooster among protesters. Enter Resistance Rooster. (My partner came up with the name.)

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When I went to pick up the postcards in person, I was surprised by the weight of the box. Turns out, the printer gave us about five times what we ordered. (Thanks, PsPrint!) Was it a mistake or did they do it on purpose because they liked our card? In any case, we had lots of extras to share. We posted to our Facebook networks, asking if anyone would want a postcard. Lots of people did. Some asked for stacks. Others asked if we had T-shirts for themselves and their kids.

And so, here we are. We have shirts and more over here. This lunar new year, show that you will stand up and fight, just like the rooster. And don’t give up, like I almost did. Keep on doing your thing and encourage those around you, too. All proceeds from sales will benefit the National Immigration Law Center.

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